Butterfly dead head

People have always associated moths with something cute, safe, and beautiful. They symbolize love, beauty and happiness. However, among them there are not very romantic creatures. These include the dead head butterfly. In the famous movie The Silence of the Lambs, the maniac Buffalo Bill bred insects and put them in the mouths of the victims. It looked impressive.

View Origin and Description

Photo: Dead Head Butterfly

Photo: Dead Head Butterfly

The dead head belongs to the hawk family. Its Latin name Acherontia atropos combines two designations that inspire fear in the inhabitants of ancient Greece. The word “Acheron” means the name of the river of sorrow in the realm of the dead, “Atropos” is the name of one of the goddesses of human destinies, who cut the thread identified with life.

The ancient Greek name was intended to describe the horrors of the underworld. The Russian name of the moth Dead head (Adam's head) is associated with its color – on the chest there is a yellow pattern resembling a skull in shape. In many European countries, hawk hawk bears a name similar to the Russian one.

Video: Dead Head Butterfly

The species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his work “The System of Nature” and named it Sphinx atropos. In 1809, the entomologist from Germany, Jacob Heinrich Laspeyres, singled out the hawk hawk in the genus Acherontia, to which it is included in our time. This genus belongs to the taxonomic rank Acherontiini. Within the rank, interspecies kinship has not been fully explored.

There are a huge number of insect species in the world, but only this creature has been honored with the creation of so many signs, legends and superstitions. Unsubstantiated speculation led to persecution, persecution and the destruction of the species, as a harbinger of trouble.

An interesting fact: the artist Van Gogh, who was in the hospital in 1889, saw a moth in the garden and depicted it in the picture, which he called “Dead Head Hawk Moth”. But the painter made a mistake and instead of the famous Adam's head he painted “Peacock-Eyed Pear”.

Appearance and features

Photo: Dead head hawk moth

Photo: Dead head hawk moth

The species of Adam's head is one of the largest among European moths. Sexual dimorphism is vaguely expressed and females differ little from males.

Their sizes reach:

  • the length of the front wings is 45-70 mm;
  • span wingspan of males – 95-115 mm;
  • wingspan of females – 90-130 mm;
  • weight of males – 2-6 g;
  • weight of females – 3 -8 y.

Forewings pointed, twice as long as wide; rear – one and a half, there is a small notch. At the front, the outer edge is even, the rear ones are beveled to the edge. The head is dark brown or black. On the black-brown chest there is a yellow pattern that looks like a human skull with black eye sockets. This drawing may be completely missing.

The underparts of the chest and abdomen are yellow. The color of the wings can vary from brown-black to ocher-yellow. Moth patterns may vary. The abdomen is up to 60 mm long, up to 20 mm in diameter, covered with scales. The proboscis is strong, thick, up to 14 millimeters, it has cilia.

The body is cone-shaped. The eyes are round. The labial palps are tightly pressed to the head, covered with scales. Antennae short, narrowed, covered with two rows of cilia. The female has no cilia. The legs are thick and short. There are four rows of spines on the legs. There are two pairs of spurs on the hind legs.

So we figured out what the Dead Head butterfly looks like. Now let's find out where the Dead Head Butterfly lives.

Where does the Dead Head Butterfly live?

Photo: Adam's head butterfly

Photo: Adam's head butterfly

The habitat includes Africa, Syria, Kuwait, Madagascar, Iraq, the western side of Saudi Arabia, Northeast Iran. It is found in Southern and Central Europe, the Canary and Azores, Transcaucasia, Turkey, Turkmenistan. Migratory specimens have been observed in the Palearctic, the Middle Urals, the North-East of Kazakhstan.

The habitats of Adam's head directly depend on the season, since the species is migratory. In the southern regions, moths live from May to September. Migrating hawk moths are capable of flying at speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour. This figure gives them the right to be champions among butterflies and allows them to migrate to other countries.

In Russia, the Dead Head was met in many regions – Moscow, Saratov, Volgograd, Penza, in the North Caucasus and in the Krasnodar Territory, it can most often be found in mountainous areas. Lepidoptera choose the most diverse landscapes for living, but most often they settle near plantations, fields, in woodlands, valleys.

Butterflies often choose territories near potato fields. When digging potatoes, many pupae come across. In the Transcaucasus, individuals settle at the foot of the mountains at an altitude of up to 700 m above sea level. During the migration period, it can be found at an altitude of 2500 m. The flight time and its range depend on weather conditions. Lepidoptera form new colonies at migration sites.

What does the dead head butterfly eat?

Photo: Dead Head Moth

Photo: Dead head moth

Imagoes are partial to sweets. Nutrition of adults is an important factor not only in maintaining life, but also in the maturation of eggs in the body of females. Due to the short proboscis, moths cannot feed on nectar, but they can drink tree juices and juices arising from damaged fruits.

However, insects feed on fruits very rarely, since while sucking out honey, juice or collecting moisture, they prefer not to be in a state of flight, but to sit on the surface near the fruit. Butterfly Dead Head loves honey, at a time it can eat up to 15 grams. They enter hives or nests and pierce the comb with their proboscis. Caterpillars feed on the tops of cultivated plants.

They especially like:

  • potatoes;
  • carrots;
  • tomato;
  • tobacco;
  • fennel;
  • beetroot;
  • eggplant;
  • turnip;
  • physalis.

Caterpillars also eat the bark of trees and some plants – belladonna, dope, wolfberry, cabbage, hemp, nettle, hibiscus, ash. They cause tangible harm to shrubs in gardens, eating foliage. Most of the time, the caterpillars are underground and come out only to feed. Give preference to nightshade plants.

Individuals feed alone, and not in groups, so they do not cause much harm to plants. Harvests, unlike pests, do not destroy, as they are an endangered species and do not suit mass raids. Plants fully recover in a short time.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Dead Head Butterfly

Photo: Dead Head Butterfly

This type of butterfly is nocturnal. During the day they rest, and at dusk they begin to hunt. Until midnight, moths can be observed in the light of lamps and poles, which attracts them. In the rays of bright light, they spin beautifully, performing mating dances.

Insects can make squeaking sounds. Entomologists for a long time could not understand which organ forms them and believed that it comes out of the stomach. But in 1920, Heinrich Prell made a discovery and found out that the squeak appears as a result of the fluctuation of the growth on the upper lip, when the butterfly sucks in air and pushes it back.

Caterpillars can also squeak, but it is different from the sounds of adults . It is formed as a result of friction of the jaws. Before rebirth as a butterfly, the pupae can also make a sound if disturbed. Scientists are not one hundred percent sure what it is for, but most agree that insects emit them to scare away strangers.

In the caterpillar stage, insects are almost all the time in minks, crawling out to the surface only to eat. Sometimes they do not even stick out completely from the ground, but reach for the nearest leaf, eat it and hide back. Burrows are located at a depth of 40 centimeters. They live like this for two months and then pupate.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Adam's Head Butterfly

Photo: Adam's Head Butterfly

The Dead Head Butterfly produces two offspring every year. Interestingly, the second generation of females is born sterile. Therefore, only newly arrived migrants will be able to increase the population. In favorable conditions and a warm climate, a third offspring may appear. However, if the autumn turns out to be cold, some individuals do not have time to pupate and die.

Females produce pheromones, thereby attracting males, after which they mate and lay eggs up to one and a half millimeters in size, bluish or green. Moths attach them to the inside of the leaf or lay them between the stem of the plant and the leaf.

The eggs hatch into large caterpillars that have five pairs of legs. Insects go through 5 stages of maturation. At the first, they grow up to one centimeter. Individuals of the 5th stage reach 15 centimeters in length and weigh about 20 grams. The caterpillars look very nice. They spend two months underground, then another month in the pupal stage.

Male pupae reach 60 millimeters in length, females – 75 mm, male pupae weigh up to 10 grams, females – up to 12 grams. At the end of the pupation process, the pupa may be yellow or cream in color, after 12 hours it becomes red-brown.

Natural enemies of the dead head butterfly

Photo: Dead head hawk moth

Photo: Dead head hawk moth

On At all stages of the life cycle, the dead head butterfly is pursued by various types of parasitoids – organisms that survive at the expense of the host:

  • larval;
  • egg;
  • egg-larval;
  • larval-pupal;
  • pupal.

Small and medium-sized species of wasps can lay their eggs directly in the body of the caterpillars. The larvae develop by parasitizing the caterpillars. Tahini lay their eggs on plants. The caterpillars eat them along with the leaves and they develop by eating the internal organs of the future moth. When parasites grow up, they come out.

Since hawks are not indifferent to bee honey, they are often bitten. It has been proven that Adam's head is almost insensitive to bee venom and is able to withstand up to five bee stings. To protect themselves from a swarm of bees, they buzz like a queen bee that has recently emerged from a cocoon.

Moths have other tricks. They sneak into the hives at night and produce chemicals that mask their own scents. With the help of fatty acids, they calm the bees. It happens that bees sting a honey lover to death.

Insects do not harm beekeeping due to their low numbers, but beekeepers still consider them pests and destroy them. Often they build nets around the hives with cells no larger than 9 millimeters so that only bees can get inside.

Population and species status

Photo : Butterfly dead head

Photo: Butterfly dead head

Often you can meet individuals only in a single quantity. The number of species directly depends on weather and natural conditions, so their number varies greatly from year to year. In cold years, the number drops significantly, in warm years it quickly resumes.

If the winters are too severe, the pupae may die. But by next year, the number is restored due to migratory individuals. The second generation of moths is hatched in a much larger number of individuals due to the migrants who have flown in. However, in the middle zone, females of the second generation cannot bear offspring.

The situation with the number of moths is quite favorable in Transcaucasia. Winters here are moderately warm and the larvae safely survive until the thaw. In other areas, changes in natural conditions adversely affect the number of butterflies.

The total number cannot be calculated, only indirectly, based on the pupae found. The decrease in the number of insects in the territories of the former USSR was caused by chemical treatments of fields, especially in the fight against the Colorado potato beetle, which caused the death of caterpillars and pupae, uprooting of shrubs, and the destruction of habitats.

Interesting fact: Moths have always been persecuted by man. The sounds made by the moth and the pattern on its chest caused the ignorant people to panic in 1733. They attributed the raging epidemic to the appearance of hawk moth. In France, some people still believe that if you get a scale from the wing of the Death's Head in your eye, you can go blind.

Photo: Dead head butterfly from the Red Book

Photo: Dead head butterfly from the Red Book

In 1980, the view of Adam's head was listed in the Red Book of the Ukrainian SSR and in 1984 in the Red Book of the USSR as disappearing. But at present it is excluded from the Red Book of Russia, as it has been given the status of a relatively common species and does not need conservation measures.

In the Red Book of Ukraine, hawk hawk is assigned the 3rd category called “rare species”. These include insect species with small populations that are not currently 'endangered' or 'vulnerable'. For schoolchildren, special explanatory classes are held on the inadmissibility of the destruction of caterpillars.

A progressive decrease in the number of individuals is observed on the territory of the countries of the former USSR, therefore it is extremely necessary to apply measures to protect these creatures. Conservation measures should consist of studying the species, its development, the influence of weather conditions and forage plants, restoring habitual habitats.

It is necessary to study the distribution of butterflies, determine the boundaries of the habitat and migration zones. In cultivated agricultural areas, the use of insecticides should be replaced by an integrated pest management method. Moreover, in the fight against the beetle, pesticides are ineffective.

In translation from Greek, the butterfly is translated as “soul”. It is just as light, airy and clean. It is necessary to preserve this soul for the sake of the next generations and give the descendants the opportunity to enjoy the sight of this beautiful creature, as well as admire the mystical appearance of these majestic moths.

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