These Are Big

Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) – You hear them first coming out of the dark like a quickening purring without any sense of direction. You then feel them as the air from their rapidly moving wings wafts around you as they circle. Then you see them, then you don’t, for they are so, so very quick and powerful in flight you can lose track of them quite easily. They are the supersonic jets of the moth world. And these are big with a wingspan of up to 90 mm (3 1/2 in). Yet in the light of day they are like daft kittens, and they will happily sit on the end of your finger, even your nose if you wanted to take things that far. The cover of night is their world, and they are masters of it. It is just they have a thing for our artificial lights. They are bedazzled and befuddled by them, sitting hoplessly in a trance-like state beneath their glare, sometimes for many hours until daybreak. Double-click image to enlarge.

Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi

© Peter Hillman ♦ 20th May 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

36 thoughts on “These Are Big

  1. Your creative introduction to this moth is wonderful: I could here the drum rolls and feel the whoosh of air, the soft tickle … and got quite carried away!

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  2. A real beauty, and perfectly camouflaged on that tree bark. But what an unusual wing conformation! The delta-shaped overwing is typical for hawk moths, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in which the underwing protrudes so prominently anterior to its upper partner.

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  3. Spectacular moth. Out of interest, how are you finding moth numbers this year? I’ve heard some people say that butterflies are lower than expected (possibly due to the wet winter affecting overwintering survival rates). I’m seeing a fair number of blues, but not that many of the big butterflies.

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    • I have seen a fair few butterfly species with the exception of the Red Admiral at present, and moth numbers appear to be on the increase with the rise in temperatures. I have photographed around 45 different species of moth during May, almost all in my backyard. This has to be the driest and possibly the hottest May on record here. Thank you Adele. Keep safe and well.

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