Privet hawk-moth

Privet Hawk-moth

©Amy Lewis

Privet Hawk-moth

©Margaret Holland

Privet hawk-moth caterpillar

Privet hawk-moth caterpillar ©Roy Bedborough

Privet hawk-moth

Scientific name: Sphinx ligustri
With a torpedo-shaped body and long, narrow wings, the privet hawk-moth is a striking garden visitor. But the caterpillars really stand out: lime-green, with purple streaks and a black hook at the tail end.

Species information


Wingspan: 9.0-12.0cm

Conservation status


When to see

June to July


The privet hawk-moth is a very large hawk-moth that is on the wing for a short period in June and July. It is commonly found in parks and gardens, as well as woodland. The adults are attractive, but it is the large caterpillars that really catch the eye: lime-green with a purple blush, purple-and-white streaks on the side, a pale yellow spot on each segment, and a big, blackish hook at the tail end. The caterpillars feed mainly on privet, but also on ash and lilac leaves. As they mature, they turn pinkish and burrow deep into soil in order to pupate, hatching out the following summer.

How to identify

The hawk-moths are recognisable by their large, torpedo-shaped bodies and long, narrow wings, held back like a jet plane. The privet hawk-moth is one of the largest, with dark brown-and-cream wings, and a pink-and black-banded body.


Widespread, but scarcer in the north.

Did you know?

Nine species of hawk-moth breed in the UK, with another eight species visiting as migrants. They are among the strongest fliers of any moths.

How people can help

To attract butterflies and moths into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.