Poplar hawkmoth Laothoe populi

The poplar hawkmoth is the most common of the hawkmoths and one of the largest resident moths to be seen flying at night in Scotland. Adults are unmistakeable, quite ornate in appearance. The wings are scalloped with grey-brown banding, pale eye-spots and leaf-like edges. There is a patch of fox-red on the under wing.


The poplar hawkmoth is found in a range of habitats from woodland and scrub to moorland and fen, but also in parks and gardens. Poplar hawkmoths are nocturnal and hideaway during the day. The most distinctive feature is the way it rests, the smaller hind wings are fanned forward, under the larger triangular forewings. The abdomen also tends to curl upwards at the tail end, when at rest.

This moth has one or two broods per year.  Females release pheromones which attract passing males and lay their eggs (up to 200) beneath leaves. Caterpillars hatch and feed between June and early October. The larvae caterpillars feed on the leaves of particular trees, such as, aspen, poplars and willows. They eventually go underground to pupate, where they overwinter. The adult moth emerges late at night or early in the morning, but only starts to fly from the second night and is strongly attracted to light.


  • Wingspan: 65-100mm
  • Lifespan: several weeks (as adult)


Common and widespread; not thought to be under threat


This moth is widespread across the UK. They can be found wherever their caterpillar foodplants grow and are regular visitors to gardens.

When to see

Adults fly from May to July, though a second generation can occur in the south in August and September.


  • The adult poplar hawkmoth does not feed during its short life. Instead, it relies on fat reserves put down as caterpillars and drinks nectar.
  • The caterpillar is bright green with diagonal yellow stripes and a ‘horn’ at the tail-end. It can reach a length of 85mm and is stout bodied. Some also have small, dark spots.

Common name

Poplar hawkmoth

Species name

Laothoe populi

IUCN Red List status


When to see in Scotland

Adults fly from May to July, though a second generation can occur in the south in August and September.

Where to see in Scotland

Can be found in larger numbers in Southern and Central Scotland and as far north as the Orkney Isles; it is absent, or very rare, on the Isles of Harris, Lewis and Shetland and less common at high altitudes. During the early summer, caterpillars can be seen on the food plants, such as aspen, poplar and willow. Visit Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Erraid Wood and Carstramon Wood for a chance to see.

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