Giant moth said to foretell doom spotted near Eastbourne

This Death's Head Hawk-moth was spotted by a church in Pevensey
This Death's Head Hawk-moth was spotted by a church in Pevensey

A spooky moth similar to the one on The Silence of the Lambs film poster has been spotted near Eastbourne.

The Death’s Head Hawk-moth, said to be a sign of doom, was found by Steve Prangnell outside Holy Rood Church in Pevensey today (Tuesday, October 4).

The creature, which is rare in the UK, gets its undesirable reputation from having markings on its back that resemble a skull.

Unusually, it can also emit a loud, piercing squeak which adds to the eerie effect. The species is one of the largest moths found in this country, with a wingspan of up to six inches (130mm) - around the size of a small bat.

Steve and his wife Maggie took the three inch (70mm) long critter they found to a friend who works as a pest controller, and he identified it.

“It makes a horrendous noise, a scary squeaking noise,” said Maggie, of St John’s Drive, Westham.

They called the Sussex Moth Group and logged the sighting on their website. The couple, who run SPS Rubbish Clearance together, will release the moth at dusk where Steve found it.

Dave Green, chairman of the Sussex Moth Group, said, “I’m absolutely excited, they are a really interesting species. They are absolutely amazing. This is one of the top moths to spot in the country.”

According to the group, there have been around 10 other sightings of the species this year across Sussex.

Nearby, a Death’s Head caterpillar was sighted in September at Pevensey marshes by Colin Brinkhurst, who said, “I rescued it from getting run over. It was huge with a stumpy tail.”

The species, named Acherontia Atropos, come from the European continent but migrate to the South Coast of the UK around autumn, when southerly winds help them to fly across the sea.

In popular culture, the Death’s Head appears in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and writing by Edgar Allen Poe and Thomas Hardy.

Historically believed to foretell war, pestilence, hunger and death, the moth is also known to go inside beehives to look for honey.

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