Poplar Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Nov 8, 2022

© Marie Jones, BSc, FIMI, PgCHE, FHEA, AHCS, fCMgr

Marie Jones' Poplar hawk-moth Laothoe populi received a merit award in the Natural Science category in BioImages 2021.

Scientific name: Laothoe populi
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Family: Sphingidae
Genus: Laothoe
Species: L. populi

The Poplar hawk-moth Laothoe populi is the most common hawk-moth, found throughout the U.K. in gardens, parks and woodland, usually from July to September. The caterpillar is seen here feeding on a Sallow leaf. These caterpillars may grow up to 70mm in length.

Equipment and Specifications

Nikon Z50 Mirrorless APS-C (DX); Lens: NIKKOR Z MC 50 mm f/2.8 macro lens. Focal length: 50 mm (DX) equivalent to 75 mm FX macro lens.

Exposure: ISO 640; aperture: f/5; shutter speed: 1/400 sec.; exposure bias: +0.7 step

Lighting: available light – viewpoint to ensure light transilluminated the caterpillar’s body.

Reason for the image creation, purpose, and audience:
The image was taken for my own interest at Ham Wall R.S.P.B. (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Nature Reserve, U.K. The RSPB encourage visitors to document the wildlife in these newly-created, managed wetlands. The information gained by visitors and volunteers is valuable to the RSPB as a means of auditing the species present at the reserve and is evidence of population growth or decline.

The Poplar hawk-moth caterpillar was extremely well-camouflaged, and I would have missed it, but whilst I was photographing a grey heron further down the river bank, I saw a photographer looking up into the tree and as I walked towards him he showed me the caterpillar. The photographer was a foot taller than me, so the caterpillar was at his eyeline and way above mine, so it is thanks to the other photographer that I saw it.

I varied my photography position until the available light transilluminated the caterpillar’s body as well as some of the surrounding leaves. The caterpillar was moving surprisingly quickly, so I used a fairly fast shutter speed to capture the image without subject movement. The large aperture was used as there was not a great deal of light and a shallow depth of field was needed to ensure that the foliage behind the caterpillar was out-of-focus, so as to not detract from the main subject.

I wish I could have set up a tripod to do some time-lapse photography as I found it fascinating how quickly the caterpillar was munching its way through all the leaves and so neat too!

Whether amateur snapshot or professional quality image, it is wonderful to be able to see, photograph and, above all, enjoy the vast diversity of nature subjects in our environment.

I have been working as a medical photographer since 1989, starting as a trainee and now manager of the medical photography service. Over the years I have moved jobs in order to gain more experience and I have gained academic and vocational qualifications along the way – ‘learning on the job’ can be tough but also very satisfying and rewarding. Clinical photography combines my interests in medicine, science, art and interaction with patients and health professionals and I would highly recommend it to anyone with interests in these areas.

Membership of BCA
Since joining BCA, I have enjoyed being part of a welcoming and friendly medical, scientific and artistic community, this has enabled me to gain knowledge and advice from my peers, and share my own knowledge, skills and experience and passion for these interests.

I continually aim to improve the images I produce. Entering BioImages gives me the opportunity to review my non-clinical images. I enjoy photographing wildlife and nature subjects, ranging from vast landscapes to infinitely small macro subjects. BioImages, means that I critique my own work and ask for my peers’ reviews when considering images for inclusion in this annual competition.