Quick facts

Common name: pine hawk-moth

Scientific name: Sphinx pinastri

Family: Sphingidae (hawk-moths)

Habitat: coniferous woodland, rural gardens, heathland

Caterpillar foodplants: Scots pine and some non-native conifers

Predators: birds, bats and small mammals

Origin: native

What do pine-hawk-moths look like?

Adults: are sleek and arrow-shaped with long, grey wings. Look for the tell-tale cluster of three dark lines on each wing and twin dark stripes on the thorax.
Wingspan: 6.5-8cm

Caterpillars: are large and smooth with a small, black tail spike and light brown head. The body is green with broken, creamy lines and a brown stripe along its back.

pine hawk-moth caterpillar

Credit: WILDLIFE Gmbh / Alamy Stock Photo

What do pine-hawk moths eat?

Adults: the nectar of honeysuckle which it feeds on at night.
Caterpillars:
the needles of Scots pine and occasionally non-native conifers.

How do pine hawk-moths breed?

Adults are on the wing and looking for mates between May and July. Eggs are laid along pine needles in twos or threes.

Caterpillars hatch and feed on mature needles between June and September, eventually descending to the ground to pupate and overwinter in the leaf litter.

pine hawk-moth on branch

Credit: AGAMI Photo Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

Where do pine hawk-moths live?

Pine hawk-moths are found mainly in southern and eastern England, particularly around conifer woodland and heathland. They will also visit gardens in search of night-flowering plants.

Signs and spotting tips

These moths feed by night but can sometimes be found resting on tree trunks during the day. Their clever camouflage does however help them blend in with the patterns of tree bark, so you’ll need sharp eyes! They are attracted to light and are easiest to spot using a moth trap.

pine hawk-moth chrysalis

Credit: BIOSPHOTO / Alamy Stock Photo

Threats and conservation

The UK’s population is slowly moving northward and into the Midlands, thanks in part to an increase in conifer plantations.