Meet the Colossal Bird-Sized Hissing Moth

Image: Olaf Leillinger, Wikimedia Commons

This giant moth boasts five-inch wings, a humongous body, and when agitated, it is capable of producing a loud hissing noise to scare off its enemies.

The privet hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri) is an strange creature endemic to the northern half of the eastern hemisphere including much of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Although they inhabit large woodland and urban areas throughout the Paleoarctic realm, they are not found in the Americas.

Sphinx ligustri Caterpillar. Photo By Entomarthvia Wikimedia

As caterpillars, they are bright green in color with well-contrasted purple stripes. An unusual curved black extremity extends from its rear. The caterpillars feast primarily on privets, ash trees, lilacs, and other plant matter, persisting until winter, when they transform into pupas and bury themselves more than 20 centimeters into the ground.

They re-emerge in June as moths, with wingspans often spanning more than four inches in length (90-120 mm on average). Like ordinary moths, the privet hawkmoth is attracted to light and flies at night, feeding on the sweet nectar of flowers including honeysuckle, snowberry, and forsythia.

As moths, they are deep brown in color with pink and black striped bodies. The male members of this species elicit a skin-crawling hissing noise produced by friction from scraping together its abdominal spines and scales.

Although they may seem distasteful, they have short lifespans as fliers, persisting solely throughout the months of June and July and only for one generation. They are also entirely harmless to humans.

Watch a video of this bizarre, giant creature: