PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Death's-head hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos), 18th century. Illustration from 'Insecten-Belustigung' (1746-1761) by German miniature painter, naturalist and entomologist August Johann Rosel von Rosenhof (1705-1759). Inspired by the work of Maria Sybella Merian, he endeavoured to show all stages of an insect's life history in life-poses where possible. To this end he raised and dissected many insects he found in the surrounding German countryside. He produced some of the most beautiful insect studies ever printed, and is recognised as an important figure in early entomology. This set of plates includes his own hand-colouring and plate corrections. The plates show the moth in a natural and a set pose (right), as well as the larvae and pupae (left). This species, whose larvae will feed on Solanacea leaves (including potato plants), used to be a regular visitor to Apis melifera bee hives where it raids for honey. The moth mimics the scent of honey bees to reduce attack and is covered in dense hairlike scales.
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