LAOTHOE POPULI POPULETI (Bienert, [1870]) -- Poplar hawkmoth

Female Laothoe populi populeti. Photo: © NHMUK Male Laothoe populi populeti. Photo: © NHMUK Male Laothoe populi populeti. Photo: © NHMUK


Smerinthus populeti Bienert, 1870, Lepid. Ergeb. Reise Persien: 33. Type locality: [Iran,] Meschhet [Mashhad]; [Iran,] ??Charlog.

Synonym. Smerinthus populi var. populetorum Staudinger, 1887.

Synonym. Amorpha populeti syriaca Gehlen, 1932.


Wingspan: 70--120mm. Very like subsp. populi, but with no violet tint to the grey pigmentation, which is itself paler and faintly pinkish orange. Many have a reddish tone (f. vera Staudinger) -- easily produced by subjecting developing pupae to heat, or grey replacing the pinkish tint (f. populetorum Staudinger). The eyes are olive-green -- in subsp. populi, they are usually dark brown. In the genitalia of most males, the lobes of the sacculus are of equal length but more slender than those in subsp. populi, especially the upper one; the aedeagus has fewer and thinner cornuti. The uncus is obviously broader and the gnathos longer than in subsp. populi.

Female Laothoe populi populeti, Turkey. Photo: © Tony Pittaway Male Laothoe populi populeti, Zharkent district, Almaty region, Dzhungarsky Alatau Mountains, South-East Kazakhstan, Photo: © Sergey Rybalkin.



China: 23.iv.-v (Xinjiang).

Probably bivoltine; April-May and again in July/August.


OVUM: Pale green, almost sperical and large for the size of moth.

LARVA: Very similar to that of Laothoe austauti (Staudinger) in all its stages. The caudal horn is noticeably longer, more curved and stouter than in larvae of subsp. populi from western Europe, but never orange as in Laothoe austauti. The forehead may be pale blue in a few individuals.

PUPA: Matt black or dark brown, rough (not glossy), unlike that of Smerinthus. Cremaster short, dorso-ventrally flattened, broad at base and terminating in a sharp point.

Larval hostplants. Unknown in China but recorded elsewhere on Populus and Salix (Pittaway, 1993).




China: Xinjiang (Yining/Gulja).

The above records (two specimens in SACS) confirm the occurrence of L. p. populeti in China.


Previously known to occur from eastern Turkey and Armenia, through NE Iraq, the Iranian plateau and the central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (south of the Kyrgyz Steppe) (Pittaway, 1993; Danner et al., 1998), to northwest China (Alphéraky, 1882).

Global distribution of Laothoe populi populeti. Map: © NHMUK.


Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Iranian.

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© A.R. Pittaway & I.J. Kitching (The Natural History Museum, London)