Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Madeira, Portugal and Art History Lesson

Subject: Large 3inch caterpillar
Location: Madeira
January 30, 2016 9:38 am
Dear Sir or Madam, I live on the Portuguese island of Madeira in Ponto do Sol – a sheltered spot at about 450 meters. I came across the caterpillar in the attached photograph this morning munching happily on a leaf. I would love to know what it is and more importantly what it will become. Can you help please?
Thank you
Signature: Mike M

Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Mike,
This Hornworm is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth,
Acherontia atropos, in its brown variation.  More typically the species has bright yellow and green caterpillars.  The adult Death’s Head Hawkmoth gets its name from the pattern on the thorax which is likened to a human skull.  This moth gained worldwide recognition when it was used to illustrate the movie poster for The Silence of the Lambs, though we just learned on Verbicide that the poster designers accentuated the typical pattern on moth by replacing the detail with an photo of a sculpture created of living nude female models entitled “In Voluptas Mors” conceived by Salvador Dali and photographed by Philippe Halsman.

Thank you very much Daniel.  I have just watched a number of youtube videos – what a fascinating process from caterpillar to moth.  What an impressive moth!!
Thanks for the information it is nice to know a little about what is happening around us.
Mike Muir

1 thought on “Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Madeira, Portugal and Art History Lesson”

  1. Just followed up the links you kindly supplied. Isn’t it fascinating what you can find out when you ask the right people? Thanks very much. Mike M


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