National Moth Week 2015


Death’s-head Hawk moth, Acherontia atropos (Linneaus, 1758). D. Descouens CC BY-SA 3.0

Join entomologists from Virginia Tech and celebrate National Moth Week! Come out to the university farm and discover insect biodiversity and nighttime nature. We’ll be at Kentland Farm at 9PM this Thursday, July 23. We’ll set up an insect-alluring mercury-vapor lamp and UV black light.

This year’s National Moth Week is celebrating the moth family Sphingidae, which includes the hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms. Pictured above is a member of this family from France. It’s a close relative to our Tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) here in the United States. Sphingid moths are fascinating insects with a superb ability to fly. Often displaying “swing-hovering”, sphingids have the agile ability to make rapid lateral movements. This flying behavior may have evolved to evade their sit-and-wait predators hanging out in the flowers that the moths visit to sip nectar.

The Death’s-head Hawk moth, which is distributed throughout Europe and Africa, possesses a skull shape pattern on its thorax. Here’s a picture of one specimen with a particularly excellent skull. Acherontia atropos has some fascinating behaviors. The adults go on nighttime raids of bee nests for honey and they make a peculiar squeaking noise if disturbed (thanks Rhea for sharing that factoid!)

  • Directions: enter Kentland Farm’s main entrance and go west past the UAV strip. We will be south of the road in the driveway of the old house on Kentland’s campus. The exact latitude and longitude are: 37.19533, -80.58061 A link to the location is at:,-80.58061&z=20&t=H
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