Eyed Hawk-moth Sphingidae

Smerinthus ocellata (Linnaeus, 1758)

Description: Wingspan 75-95mm. Adults are pale brown with pinkish brown forewings. The forewings are slightly scalloped with a series of chocolate blotches. The hindwings are ochreous brown, flushed with a rosy pink hue and large bluish grey eyespots. The moth adopts a curious resting posture, where the forewings are held over the hind wings and the body is curled upwards. When threatened, it exposes its hindwings to reveal the large eyespots.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside

Flight Period: From the beginning of May until the end of July.

Status: Widely distributed but local, existing in small populations. Most of the recent records are from bogs and fens around N. Armagh, where the ground is more low-lying and generally wetter. Peatlands Park, the Argory and Montiaghs Moss, Co. Antrim seem to be its major strongholds. Other recent records include Garvary Wood Fermanagh, where it seems to be frequently encountered especially in the last few years.

Ecology: An attractive species that is found in small numbers on bogs, marshes and damp woodland, where willows Salix spp. are common. Adults are attracted to light but usually in very small numbers. The larvae can be found from early June until September on willows and apple Malus spp. They seem to prefer small, often isolated trees, usually in more sheltered spots, where they can be seen (if looked for carefully) resting on the branches near the base of the tree. It overwinters as a pupa.

World Distribution: Throughout Europe east to Siberia and Asia Minor.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1980 Agassiz number: 69.002

Additional information:

UK Moths account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland