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Poplar Hawk by Andy
Poplar Hawk Mating450w1182

Poplar Hawk Moth, female.

Poplar Hawk Moth Egg450w5986

Poplar Hawk Moth egg found under a Black Poplar tree leaf.

Poplar Hawk Moth, male.

Poplar Hawk Moth Egg450w5993

Poplar Hawk Moth egg.

Poplar Hawk Moth  (Laothoe Populi)

The Poplar hawk moth was the first hawk moth larvae I ever found in the wild as a young boy, I still remember how excited I was rushing home to look in my oxford book of insects to identify the three fat caterpillars I found. So it has been my favourite hawk moth ever since collecting a few wild eggs or larvae each year. Larvae and eggs can be found on poplar, sallow, willow and aspens by carefully turning low branches, easy to find on lower branches of mature poplar trees and young poplar trees which often are used to border football fields and rivers etc. When at rest the moth's hind wings rest above the fore-wings with its distinctive shape and clever shading of the scalloped wings makes it well camouflaged on a tree bark or branches of leaves. The Poplar hawk moth is one of the most frequent moths I find caught in my mercury moth trap and I always find it interesting to see what kind of grey or pink variety the moth is before photographing it during the day and releasing it the next evening.

Andy, checking wild Poplar hawk larvae protected in hanging cage used as a sleeve.

Collecting wild Poplar Hawk Moth eggs in your garden

Poplar Hawk Moths, Mating pair.

Poplar Hawk Moth, caterpillar.

The easiest way to collect wild Poplar hawks is to grow cut branches of poplar cuttings which root very quickly you don’t need a big garden. I have mine in pots when the trees are in leaf just turn over the leaves to find the eggs, which look like green pearls. I cover the eggs in a netted sleeve or cut the leaf around the eggs, then place the small larvae into a plastic container until hatched then move them using a paintbrush into a sleeve and just leave them to feed naturally. I tap the food plant first to remove any predators like spiders hiding in the branches. I check the sleeves every day because just one larvae eat a lot of leaves, and move the larvae to a new branch before all the leaves have been eaten. It's worth the trouble as a sleeved caterpillar will be as close to a wild healthy stock as you can get than reared in a crowded container with others. Then I collect the larvae before full-grown and place them with poplar branches in an escape-proof cage or container. For the second generation before it gets too cold or wet I bring the caterpillars into my summerhouse earlier and place them into a large tank with cut branches in water. The caterpillars will change a darker colour before looking for a suitable place to pupate. So it is important to block the entrance around the branches to prevent a full-grown caterpillar drowning in the water when looking for somewhere to pupate. Its then you must place them in a box filled with a safe substrate, a few weeks later place them in a netted cage and wait for them to emerge.

Andy Newman Images©