Toni Pitkälä from Pori on the west coast of Finland was amazed to find an enormous dead butterfly on the floor of his stairwell. Pitkälä brought it immediately to his neighbour Ossi Saiha on a dustpan. Saiha, who is a nature enthusiast, had also never set eyes on anything like the moth.
Saiha took a picture of the insect and posted it on an internet forum devoted to butterflies. Answers to his questions soon came in: the creature was an extremely rare species called Daphnis nerii, known as the Oleander Hawk-moth or Army Green Moth.
“I measured it, and it had a wingspan of 11 centimetres,” Saiha recounted.
Extremely rare find in Finland
The Oleander Hawk-moth was last seen in Finland in 1995, in the Northern Satakunta municipality of Karvia. The Pori find is the sixteenth ever to be recorded in the country.
Butterfly expert and museum chief Jaakko Kullberg says that the Hawk-moth is a very rare animal in Finland.
“It’s a very impressive butterfly,” he says. “Most of the sightings of the insect have been by laymen. The Oleander moth is easy to spot and likely to be kept if discovered.”
The butterfly usually lives in subtropical climates. The ones found in Finland are usually from Sub-Saharan Africa, although the species also exists in the Middle East.
A swift nomad
Kullberg says that the species is a typical wanderer: in dry areas, it has had to adapt to quick shifts in locale.
Indeed, the Oleander Hawk-moth is strong of build and a fast flyer at about 80 kilometres per hour, in addition to being heavy – Kullberg compares its weight to that of a small bird. One butterfly can fly for a week straight, meaning its appearance in Finland is not an impossibility.
“It is so large that if the temperature drops below eight degrees Celsius, all the butterflies including their eggs, caterpillars and cocoons will die,” he demonstrates.
This particular Oleander Hawk-moth is now safe in the collection of a Pori butterfly enthusiast.