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News article created on 29 October 2014

This Halloween, look out for spooky wildlife on your local canal

It’s that time of year again- time to celebrate everything spooky, scary and horror-tastic. We could write a blog post about our favourite Halloween animal, the bat, but in a (slightly) tenuous link, let’s talk about one of our country’s finest moths…

You can find all sorts of wildlife on your local canal, from the more exotic (snake colonies anyone?) to the more expected (our lovely swans). On a water vole survey over the summer, our environmental scientist Nick found himself face to face with a bit of a heavy-weight in the caterpillar world- the Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar.

At a monstrous size of 75 millimetres (on average), this caterpillar is very identifiable by its size, and the two big black spots on its head. It also has a trunk-like nose (which is where it gets its name from). If you look at the photo our intrepid photographer took, you can’t see the trunk- the caterpillar draws this trunk up when startled, making the head of the caterpillar (and those distinctive black spots) bigger and more threatening.

Whilst it’s not quite ‘Jeepers Creepers’ or ‘Mama’, moths are often featured in horror films (many moths are thought to be symbols of death, for varying reasons). For the Elephant Hawk-moth, August is a good time to spot the caterpillars, so the full grown moths should be visible in September. The Elephant Hawk-moth is our biggest native moth, and has very striking colours of olive green and pink so it is not so much an omen of death as its poor cousin, the Death’s Head Hawmkmoth, which has the image of a skull on its back!

Have you seen any good Halloween wildlife spots? Let us know!

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The environment team

The Canal & River Trust has top team of committed experts and enthusiasts, who help to protect our waterway environment and improve it for both people and nature. Follow this blog to find out more about the hugely varied work they carry out.

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