Taxonomy

The death’s-head hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos is one of 3 species in the genus Acherontia

The other species are:

  • the greater death’s-head hawkmoth, Acherontia lachesis, which is easily distinguished by the black base to the hindwings upperside and the red scales underneath the skull mark
  • the lesser death’s-head hawkmoth, Acherontia styx, which is very similar to Acherontia atropos but is smaller and has small black dots along the underside of the abdomen rather than large patches

Both these species are found in Asia, although Acherontia atropos and Acherontia styx overlap in the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East.

The death’s-head hawkmoths belong to the tribe Acherontiini, which includes another of the UK’s largest moths, the convolvulus hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli).

For more details on the phylogenetic relationships of Acherontia, see Kitching (2003).