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Death’s-head Hawkmoth - ROM2003_837_9


Death’s-head Hawkmoth

Geography: Vietnam, Vinh Phú: 2 km along 1° forest trail at western edge of town
Date: May 4-31, 1996
wingspan=125 mm
    • Attributes
    • Objects
    • Taxonomy
    • KingdomAnimalia
    • PhylumArthropoda
    • ClassInsecta
    • OrderLepidoptera
    • FamilySphingidae
    • GenusAcherontia
    • SpecificEpithetlachesis
Object number: ROME79174DUP
Not on view
DescriptionThe image of the Death’s-head Hawkmoth moth was popularized in large part due to the poster for the 1991 movie, "The Silence of the Lambs". Included on the dorsal surface of the moth's thorax was an image of a Salvador Dali skull—in real life, the markings are not nearly as distinctive. Still, the Death's-head is remarkably coloured and its scientific name is Acherontia lachesis. In Greek mythology, Acheron is known as the "river of woe" in the Underworld (Hades). The moth's specific epithet, lachesis, refers to the first of the three Fates who measure the length of the thread of human life. The Death's-head caterpillar, often a striking yellow-green in appearance, often feeds on Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna. This poisonous plant is named after Atropos, the third Fate, who cuts the thread of human life. Other members in this moth genus include, Acherontia atropos, and Acherontia styx, named after the principle river of Hades. Native to southeast Asia, the Death’s-head Hawkmoth has an appetite for honey and a remarkable means to get to it without suffering any consequences from its actions. By unfurling its long, coiled proboscis (its mouthparts), this moth is capable of piercing the cells of beehives to extract the honey found within. To avoid being stung while feeding, this moth is capable of emitting a squeaking sound similar to that of the queen bee prior to its pre-swarm nuptial flight. Bees within the hive mistake the moth for one of their own while it feeds away upon the honey that they have produced.
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