Friday, 18 November 2016


Oh wow, to find a Greater Death’s Head Hawkmoth in our garden, well Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming.

Remember the Silence of the Lambs movie poster with a Greater Death’s Head Hawkmoth over the mouth of the girl, yes you do as it still eats away at you, well this is one of those moths. I feel so blessed to find this big moth, over 10cm big with its sinister skull shape on its back, I am sure Hannibal Lecter would be proud of this moth but other than a harbinger of death how much does South African’s know about this beautiful caterpillar/moth that is found in their gardens.

The Acherontia atropos, as this species of Death’s Head Hawkmoth is known as, is named after a river in Greek mythology the Acheron or the River of Pain over which the ferryman takes you over. Atropos the unturnable, one of three Moirai goddesses of fate and destiny who cuts the thread of life. With a top speed of just under 50kph, I am sure you can’t outrun your fate as this moth can be seen feeding like a hummingbird on the nectar of flowers and raiding beehives at night, all for the sweet nectar of life.

So it is not surprising that we have used this moth, in literature and movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Silence of the Lambs. In the Netherlands, they call this the Doodshoofdvlinder and in French, le sphinx à tête de mort; in German, Totenkopfschwärmer; in Spanish, cabeza de muerto; and in Swedish, Dödskallesvärmare, whatever you call it, I find the Greater Death’s Head Hawkmoth beautiful and life inspiring.

I do wish I can chat longer, but I’m having an old friend over for dinner.

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