Laothoe populi

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Poplar hawk-moth
Laothoe populi.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Clade: Euarthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sphingidae
Genus: Laothoe
Species: L. populi
Binomial name
Laothoe populi
(Linnaeus, 1758)[1]
  • Sphinx populi Linnaeus, 1758
  • Sphinx tremulae Borkhausen, 1793
  • Merinthus palustris Holle, 1865
  • Smerinthus borkhauseni Bartel, 1900
  • Smerinthus roseotincta Reuter, 1893
  • Amorpha populi angustata (Closs, 1916)
  • Amorpha populi depupillatus (Silbernagel, 1943)
  • Amorpha populi flavomaculata Mezger, 1928
  • Amorpha populi lappona Rangnow, 1935
  • Amorpha populi pallida Tutt, 1902
  • Amorpha populi philiponi Huard, 1928
  • Amorpha populi suffusa Tutt, 1902
  • Laothoe populi albida Cockayne, 1953
  • Laothoe populi basilutescens Cockayne, 1953
  • Laothoe populi bicolor (Lempke, 1959)
  • Laothoe populi minor (Vilarrubia, 1973)
  • Laothoe populi moesta Cockayne, 1953
  • Laothoe populi pallida Newnham, 1900
  • Merinthus populi salicis Holle, 1865
  • Smerinthus populi cinerea-diluta Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi decorata Schultz, 1903
  • Smerinthus populi ferruginea-fasciata Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi ferruginea Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi fuchsi Bartel, 1900
  • Smerinthus populi grisea-diluta Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi grisea Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi pallida-fasciata Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi rectilineata Klemensiewicz, 1912
  • Smerinthus populi rufa-diluta Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi rufa Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi rufescens (de Selys-Longschamps, 1857)
  • Smerinthus populi rufescens Fuchs, 1889
  • Smerinthus populi subflava Gillmer, 1904
  • Smerinthus populi violacea Newnham, 1900

Laothoe populi (poplar hawk-moth) is a moth of the family Sphingidae. It is found throughout the Palearctic region and the Near East and is one of the most common members of the family in the region.[2]


This is a large (wingspan 70–100 mm), odd-looking, species due to its habit of resting with its hindwings held further forward than (but still half hidden by) the forewings (the species lacks a frenulum joining the wings together). It is said to look like a cluster of dead leaves of the main host, poplar. When disturbed, the moth will suddenly reveal a bright orange-red basal patch on the hindwing, possibly as a distraction or startle display. Gynandromorphs, half female and half male, are common.[2] The wings are grey marked with darker grey fascia but with the greys occasionally replaced by buffish tones (this form is more frequent among females than males).There is a white spot at the distal edge of the cell on the fore wings.

Life cycle[edit]

One or two broods are produced each year and adults can be seen from May to September. The adults do not feed. The species overwinters as a pupa.


The egg is large, spherical, pale green, and glossy, and is laid singly or in pairs on the underside of leaves of the host plant.[2] Females lay up to 200 eggs.


On first hatching the larva (or "hornworm") is pale green with small yellow tubercules and a cream-coloured tail horn. Later, it develops yellow diagonal stripes on its sides, and pink spiracles. Individuals feeding on willows may become quite heavily spotted with red. Others are more bluish white with cream stripes and tubercules. They are stout bodied, and grow to 65–85 mm.[2]


The larva pupates in an earthen cell 2–3 cm below the surface, near its host plant. It has a short cremaster.[2]


Although they emerge late at night or early in the morning, the moth flies starting from the second night and is strongly attracted to light. Having no functional proboscis, it does not feed.[2]

Host plants[edit]

It feeds mainly on poplar and aspen but sometimes on willow, alder, apple, birch, elm, oak and ash. The food plant often depends on location.[2]


  • Laothoe populi populi
  • Laothoe populi lappona (Rangnow, 1935)


  1. ^ "CATE Creating a Taxonomic eScience - Sphingidae". Retrieved 2011-11-01. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Pittaway, 1993, page not cited


  • Chinery, Michael (1993) [1986]. Insects of Britain & Northern Europe: The Complete Insect Guide. Collins Field Guide. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-219918-1. 
  • Pittaway, A.R. (1993) [1992]. The Hawkmoths of the Western Palaearctic. London: Harley Books. ISBN 0-946589-21-6. 
  • Skinner, Bernard (2009) [1984]. Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles (Macrolepidoptera). London: Harley Books. ISBN 87-88757-90-0. 

External links[edit]