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Poplar Hawk Moth (Laothoe populi)

The poplar hawk moth is a member of the family of the hawk moths. These are among the most common moths found in the UK, mostly resembling a pile of dead leaves lying shabbily on the ground since the wings lack the tissues joining them together. Swedish entomologist Carl Linnaeus first described this moth in the 10th edition of his book Systema Naturae.

Poplar Hawk Moth


Scientific Classification

  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Genus: Laothoe
  • Scientific Name: Laothoe populi

Description and Identification


They start pale green, with tiny yellow outgrowths and a cream-colored horn on its posterior end. On maturing, the larva develops yellow stripes on their sides and pink spiracles. Interestingly, the caterpillar’s feeding habits can sometimes determine its color. Those feeding on willows gain red spots while those who don’t are bluish-white with cream stripes and tubercles. 

Poplar Hawk Moth Larvae


Poplar Hawk Moth Caterpillar



Once fully mature, the larva pupates near the host plant in an earthen cell 2-3 cm long.

Poplar Hawk Moth Pupa


Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present but not prominent.

The slight difference observed is in the coloration of the wings, particularly hindwings. In the females, the grayish tone sometimes gets replaced with a buff coloration.

These moths display gynandromorphism, with a single species having characteristics of both males and females.

Color and Appearance

Forewings: When the wings are opened, they are gray with a white spot visible at the end of the wings. When the wings are closed, they fail to cover the hindwings entirely.

Hindwings: When opened, the wings display a bright reddish-orange patch against a gray background. When closed, the patch is hidden, but the hindwings are still visible below the forewings. 

Average Wingspan: 65-90 mm

Flight Pattern: Consistent

Season: Late spring to early summer 

Laothoe populi



They are pale green, glossy, large, and spherical, laid singly or in pairs. Females tend to lay 200 eggs over their lifetime.

Poplar Hawk Moth Eggs


Quick Facts

DistributionMost of Britain
HabitatFens, gardens, heathlands, moorlands, parklands, and woodlands.
Lifespan of AdultsNot recorded
Host Plants Apple, aspen, poplar, and sallow
Adult DietDoes not feed

Did You Know

  • These moths have two known subspecies – Laothoe populi populi and Laothoe populi lappona.
  • The mating between the eyed hawk moth and the poplar hawk moth results in a hybrid, marked with prominent eyes on its hindwings.
Poplar Hawk Moth Image


Poplar Hawk Moth Female


Poplar Hawk Moth Picture


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