Monday, 26 August 2013

Sphinx tete de mort (Acherontia atropos)

Anyone into etymology will know what this is

but I would imagine everyone would know what this is
What's the story I hear you ask? Well, just before our Mechoui at the beginning of August, we had a small meeting to discuss the food, and our neighbour, Claude, brought with him a plastic box (with a lid - very important) containing some soil and the caterpillar (chenille) pictured above. We were amazed - the thing was longer and fatter than my middle finger. The colour was as you see above, an incredible thing really. What was more surprising was that no-one knew what it was, including Alain the farmer. We all wanted to know where Claude had found it - 'dans mes patates' was the answer. Eventually, another neighbour, Severine arrived and on seeing the caterpillar, promptly took a photo on her phone to send to a friend who was an etymologist.
On the day of the Mechoui we asked Claude if Severine had an answer but it appeared he still didn't know. We all waited for her to arrive (at 8 1/2 months pregnant, she was a little late, understandably!) and asked her for the result.
'Sphinx tete de mort' was the answer, and it didn't take me long to translate that one! Quite rare here apparently and her etymologist friend had asked if he could have it, to watch it pupate then hatch. Their wingspan measures about 15 centimeters so I for one am glad they are quite rare!

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