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Poplar Hawk-moths Emerging, Mating & Laying Eggs

6-15-17 big poplar sphinx moth2 074

June is well-known for the giant silk moths that emerge this month, but there are other large moths that are encountered as well, one of which is the Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi). Hawk-moths, also known as Hornworms (their larvae, which feed mainly on species of poplar, usually have a horn), are a type of Sphinx moth, which are known for their fast, enduring flight. One of the more familiar species of this family is the day-flying Hummingbird Hawk-moth, which can be seen hovering at flowers while sipping nectar with its proboscis.

Adult Poplar Hawk-moths, with wingspans as large as four inches, emerge in early summer. Their life is so short that they do not have a functional proboscis and do not eat, but concentrate on mating. Females extend a scent gland from the end of their abdomen to lure in the night flying males whose large claspers are frequently wide open as they fly in to lights around midnight. The moths mate and the females lay their pale green eggs on the leaves of poplars and willows, which the larvae eat once they hatch. Fully-grown caterpillars pupate and overwinter in shallow burrows in the ground.

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3 responses

  1. Good morning!
    I’m having problems finding a New World synonym for this moth. This species you have named is, apparently, only European. I’ve checked the plates at http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu (the Sphingidae plates) and can’t find it (but I often get moth-blind). Thank you for your help!

    June 16, 2017 at 5:54 am

  2. Jean Harrison

    Pachysphinx occidentalis

    June 16, 2017 at 8:25 pm

  3. Pachysphinx modesta (see today’s post).
    And now I know why I didn’t see the species on the MPG page: the different colors. They display the green variant in the plates and you have to click through to see this brown version. So I’m not completely moth-blind. We had one two days ago!

    June 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

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