I was mystified by a couple of dead branches on our fuchsia shrub in the back garden. The rest of the plant seemed healthy and unaffected. What I found when I went to prune off the dead branches, actually made me jump.
This weird and wonderful creature is the caterpillar of one of our most spectacular and largest flying insects, the Elephant Hawk Moth. As I went to prune a branch, it raised up its head; they also enlarge their heads to give the appearance of a small snake. I thought the ‘head’ was actually its tail, at first, but they have a head which is aimed at frightening would-be attackers, rather than the ‘false’ head and eyes found on the wings of many butterflies and moths.
The pictures clearly show the damage it is doing to our fuchsia; by far their favourite pant, apparently. I don’t think it will kill the plant entirely, although it is doing a good job. That said, a few branches is, I think, a small price to pay to share our garden with this fabulous creature – can’t wait to see the adult moth later in the year!
J Pomroy – 6th August 2019