Unusual looking Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars have invaded gardens across the North East

Strange looking caterpillars have been spotted in North East gardens with some people thinking they’re snakes and others not knowing why they’re there.

Sunday, 1st September 2019, 8:00 am

The small snake lookalikes are called Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars have been wriggling around people’s gardens throughout the summer due to the warm weather.

Barby Lambton of New Herrington spotted one in her garden on Thursday, August 29. She said: “We only found it because the kitten was frightened of something and when we looked thought it was a small snake at first.”

Stephen Bridge of Murton found two of the caterpillars in his garden on Monday, August, 19. He said: “I was doing some gardening and was going to tidy up a corner area and remove a bush. As I was about to start the work, the two elephant hawk-moth caterpillars caught my eyes on the pathway.

The caterpillars have been spotted in North East gardens

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“I was unsure what they were at first so did a little research and found out that they are completely harmless. I didn't undertake the work, left the bush remaining and will leave it until next spring allowing these caterpillars to perform their amazing transformation.”

Natasha Andrews of Westlea spotted one when her cat brought it home on Monday, August 12. She said: “I'm not sure where it came came from. She has brought two home so far, both alive and seemed unharmed. The way it moved it looked like a baby snake.”

What are Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars?

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars are nocturnal insects which can grow to the length and width of a large thumb.

They have large eye-spots Photo: Stephen Bridge

They are named this because they are dark brown and look a bit like a trunk.

Why have they been spotted over the summer?

The Wildlife Trusts claim that you'll be able to see the caterpillars between July and September.

They have two big eye-spots which swell up to defend from predators so they’re not difficult to spot.

Natasha Andrews' photo shows the size that some of the caterpillars can grow to

You’re unlikely to see them during the winter as that is when they are likely to be in chrysalis before they transform into a moth.

Barby Lambton's kitten was frightened by this caterpillar