This large colourful moth is our largest native hawk moth with a wingspan of over 10cm. Full-grown caterpillar grow to an impressive length of 12cm with diagonal white/ lilac stripes with a large black horn. Occasionally I find larvae in the wild to photograph so far only feeding on wild privet and the Wayfaring tree which usually grows in the same location as wild Privet. They also feed on lilac, holly, ash and honeysuckle and larvae fed in captivity on lilac produce larger pupae than other food plants. I always enjoy hearing the vibrating wings of this powerful moth when being released into the wild it is a fast flying moth when at rest it is well camouflaged resting on a tree or even a fence post when disturbed it open its fore-wings wide showing its black and red warning stripes to detour predators.
Both sexes are similar in appearance except the female is slightly larger with thinner antennae. The privet hawk moth will visit flowers in the wild to feed on nectar using its long tongue. Like other hawk moths that feed this is important to help the development of the eggs. when I rear privet hawk moths I always have flowers in a large cage and hang a wet sponge soaked in sugar water for the adult moths to feed on. I remember when I was very young watching with amazement when my father showed me how to revive a weak specimen by carefully using a needle to uncurl a Privet Hawk moths tongue-like proboscis onto cotton wool soaked in honey and water it is not long before the moth is feeding on its own and vibrating its wings before taking flight.