We have now confirmed that this moth is present in the UAE (see Bulletin 19, page 9). One specimen was collected at Tawiyayn on the track over the mountains from Idhan to Dibba (Ian Hamer) and a second from Huwaylat, near Hatta (Bish Brown). Both insects were hovering and taking food from the long white tubular flowers of Rhazya stricta (Apocynaceae - Dogbane Family) .
It is recorded that the wing-beat of this moth is 85 per second, giving it a flying speed of just over 11 miles per hour (18 kph).Death's Head Hawk - Acherontia atropos
A very large moth with a wing span of up to 4.5 inches (11.5 cm), though many are smaller. The forewings are very dark brown with some lighter streaks and one small whitish coloured spot. The underwings are yellow with two dark brown lines and some veins outlined with brown. A pattern on the thorax resembling a human skull is another prominent feature.
More than 30 specimens were recorded in Abu Dhabi in the two months between November 1983 and January 1984. These were our first records since we began in 1976.
Food plants for the larva (caterpiller) stage will probably be cultivated plants in the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family such as Datura (Datura inoxia) with large white trumpet-shaped flowers and prickly seeds. Petunia ( Petunia hybrida) with red, pink and white flowers is also in this family. Droppings found around the base of wild Jasmine (Clerodendron inerme), the evergreen shrub used as a hedging plant could indicate another food source, though this is in the Verbenaceae Family.