Hornet Moth

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For the 1930s British biplane, see de Havilland Hornet Moth.
Hornet Moth
Sesia apiformis mounted.jpg
Sesia apiformis adult1.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sesiidae
Genus: Sesia
Species: S. apiformis
Binomial name
Sesia apiformis
(Clerck, 1759)
  • Sphinx apiformis Clerck, 1759 (nec Linnaeus, 1761, nec Hübner, 1796)
  • Sphinx apiformis Linnaeus, 1761 (nec Hübner, 1796)
  • Sphinx crabroniformis [Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775 (nec Fabricius, 1793, nec Lewin, 1797, nec Laspeyres, 1801)
  • Sphinx sireciformis Esper, 1782
  • Sphinx tenebrioniformis Esper, 1782
  • Sphinx vespa Retzius, 1783
  • Trochilium apiformis f. brunneipes Turati, 1913
  • Trochilum apiformis ab. brunnea Caflisch, 1890
  • Trochilium apiformis ab. caflischii Standfuss, 1892
  • Aegeria apiformis ab. rhodani Mouterde, 1955

The Hornet Moth or Hornet Clearwing, (Sesia apiformis), is a large bulky moth which is a brilliant natural imitation of a hornet. Despite this, however, the moth is perfectly harmless.


The Hornet Moth is easily confused with the real Hornet and the Lunar Hornet Moth. The moth is as large as a hornet and even has the hornet's rather jerky flight when disturbed, but it has more yellow and lacks the waist between the abdomen and the thorax. Lunar Hornet Moths lack the yellow head and shoulders and has a black collar, unlike the Hornet Moth which has a yellow collar. The Lunar Hornet Moth flies from July to early August, though this is not a reliable identification guide.

Flight Season[edit]

As with all British clearwing moths, there is one generation every year. It flies from mid June to July and sometimes into early August.

Life cycle[edit]

It overwinters as a larva one and sometimes two times, after which it stays in its cocoon for another winter. Adults are often found on poplar trees straight after emergence. The females lay their eggs at the base of poplar trees, the larval food plant .The larva hatch and feed mainly just beneath the surface of the bark, near ground or below it. Exit holes can often be seen near the base of poplar trees and there may be pupal cases nearby.


The Hornet Moth can be found in Germany, Netherlands, Austria, and Bohemia. This species is also scarcely found in the British Isles.

It likes Parks, hedgerows, golf courses, quarries, pits, fens, plantation edges and pond edges. Trees in open habitats with little vegetation round the base are a particular favourite.