The adult moths are unusual in several ways: they have the ability to emit a loud squeak when irritated by expelling air from the pharynx. They also have the habit of raiding beehives for honey - a behaviour enabled by their ability to produce a scent mimicking that of the queen bee. Perhaps most strikingly unusual is the skull-like markings on the thorax. This feature has earned this species a negative reputation, and in popular culture it has often been used in connection with evil and the supernatural, most notably in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs.
Although in Britain the larvae are most commonly found on potato Solanum tuberosum, in captivity they will readily accept Privet Ligustrum vulgare. The bright yellow larvae are striking in colouration and also size, with individuals growing as large as 12cm.
Larval food plants: