The Sphingidae of Alberta: Larvae

Ceratomia amyntor, Drumhellar, Alberta,
courtesy of Burt and Shirley Krull via Sue Brooks.

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This website is designed and maintained by Bill Oehlke. Please send sightings (date, location, species) and/or images to Bill.

This page is dedicated to and inspired by Burt and Shirley Krull and Sue Brooks who sent me the Ceratomia amyntor image top of the page, and to and by Joanne Bovee, via Robert Bercha, who sent me the Hyles gallii image, bottom of this page.

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

To aid with caterpillar identifications this larval thumbnail checklist has been created (August 28, 2007).

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia amyntor SB, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx: Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus). There are both green and brown forms. The four horns near the head are diagnostic.

Ceratomia amyntor larva, Drumhellar, courtesy of Burt and Shirley Krull via Sue Brooks.

Ceratomia undulosa ALG/EU, the Waved Sphinx: Fraxinus, Ligustrum, Quercus, Crataegus and Chionanthus virginicus are listed as hosts.

In the fifth instar, the spiracular ovals are decidedly red and the anal horn is off-white to pinkish laterally.

Ceratomia undulosa adult moth, Edmonton, summer 2004, courtesy of Evie Uretsky

Lapara bombycoides ALG, the Northern Pine Sphinx: This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines. The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.

Sphinx chersis ALG/GH, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: The larvae are pale bluish green. The head has a pair of yellow lateral bands meeting at the apex. The oblique, lateral stripes are pale and bordered anteriorly with a darker green. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx chersis, July 6, 2008, Calgary, Glenna Hauck

Sphinx drupiferarum ALG, the Wild Cherry Sphinx: Sphinx drupiferarum larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night. Larvae have been found on Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts and have been reared to pupation in Michigan on Prunus serotina from eggs readily oviposited by a female.

Sphinx luscitiosa ALG, Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx. Larval hosts are willow (Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula), apple (Malus), ash (Fraxinus), waxmyrtle (Morella), and northern bayberry.

Sphinx pinastri , ALG, Pine Hawkmoth: Larvae feed on various species of conifers, including Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris); and spruce, including Norway spruce (Picea abies). Larvae ocur in green form (depicted left) and dark form. rare

Sphinx poecila ALG, the Poecila Sphinx: If you have blueberries in the woods, then you probably have the Poecila Sphinx. There are both a green form and a purple form.

Sphinx vashti ALG, the Snowberry Sphinx: Larvae feed on the common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) and on coralberry (S. orbiculatus).

Note the two golden linesof slightly raised bumps, one just behind the head, the other on the thorax.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx modesta ALG/DH, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx: Larvae feed on poplars and cottonwood. The anal horn is very rudimentary in the final instar.

Pachysphinx modesta prepupal, Vegreville, August 24, 2008, courtesy of David Hibbeln.

Paonias excaecata ALG, the Blinded Sphinx

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada. generally more eastern species

Paonias myops ALG, the Small-eyed Sphinx: Wild cherry species are the favorites as larval foodplants, but eggs will also be deposited on birches and other forest trees.

There are varying degrees in the amount of red markings along the sides.

Smerinthus cerisyi ALG, Cerisy's Sphinx; Greatly resemble modesta larvae, pale green, granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, very pale longitudinal lines running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Larvae have green heads bounded dorsally with pale yellow inverted "V".

Smerinthus jamaicensis ALG, the Twin-spotted Sphinx: Larvae feed upon many forest trees including birches and cherries, but are expecially fond of poplars and willows. Red markings on sides vary greatly from specimen to specimen.

Smerinthus ophthalmica WO: Resemble cerisyi larvae, pale green, granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, very pale longitudinal lines running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Green heads bounded dorsally with pale yellow inverted V. Blue horn.

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini Tribe:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris diffinis ALG/RB, Snowberry Clearwing; Bumblebee Moth: Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum), dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). Horn black, yellow base. East of Continental Divide.

Hemaris diffinis prepupal larva, near Gull Lake, August 14, 2011, Robert Bercha.

Hemaris gracilis ALG, the Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

Larval foods are blueberries including low bush blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), and laurel (Kalmia), all in the heath family (Ericaceae).

Hemaris thetis WO,

Larval host plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, high bush cranberry and hawthorn (Crataegus).

Horn is black with a slightly lighter base. This western species was formerly classified as H. diffinis or H. senta. Those species west of the Continental Divide are now classified as H. thetis.

Hemaris thysbe ALG/SB, the Hummingbird Clearwing

There is also an orangey-pink prepupal form. The lateral line runs from S1 to the blue horn. Hemaris thysbe larvae feed on viburnum and related plants. generally more eastern species

Hemaris thysbe, 27 km north of Lave Lake, June 13, 2009, Shawn Baker.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Amphion floridensis ALG, the Nessus Sphinix

In additon to Virginia creeper larvae accept Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum).

Larvae are green until the final instar.

Darapsa choerilus ALG, the Azalea Sphinx

Larvae feed on Azalea and Viburnum and progress very rapidly. The larva to the left on Viburnum cassinoides is getting ready to pupate. Color change from green to light burgundy-brown indicates pupation is imminent.

Hyles euphorbiae ALG/bmb/DH/JW, Spurge Hawk Moth: Young larvae are variously patterned with green, yellow, and black; older larvae have a distinctive red, black, yellow, and white color pattern. Mature larvae may approach 10 cm in length; when disturbed, they regurgitate a slimy green liquid. Larvae feed on leafy spurge.

Hyles euphorbiae larva, Calgary, Alberta, July 27, 2012, Don Hladky.
Hyles euphorbiae, near Lethbridge, Alberta, August 2, 2012, Justine Willis
Hyles euphorbiae, near Rundle Park, Edmonton, Alberta, July 25, 2014, Telofson

Hyles gallii ALG/JB/BAS, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

Larvae come in black and in brown forms (see bottom of page) and often feed on Epilobium (fireweed). There is also variation in the colour of the larger subdorsal spots.

Hyles gallii, fifth instar, Edmonton, July 2006, Joanne Bovee
Hyles gallii, fifth instar, Sibbald Flats, Kananaskis Co., August 31, 2011, Betty Ann Swaim

Hyles lineata ALG/HH, the White-lined Sphinx: Larvae are highly varied and feed on a great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), and Fuschia. All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Hyles lineata, adult moth, Vermilion, August 12, 2007, courtesy of Holly Holmen.

Proserpinus flavofasciata ALG, Yellow-banded Day Sphinx. Penultimate instar: pale green with pair of pale, dorsolateral lines running from head to base of short caudal horn. Final instar: brown-black with numerous black dots; caudal horn replaced by black button surrounded by white ring edged with black.

Proserpinus juanita ALG, the Juanita Sphinx: Newly-hatched caterpillars eat their eggshells. Larvae feed on (Onagraceae) including evening primrose (Oenothera), gaura (Gaura), and willow weed (Epilobium).

Michael Van Buskirk has found them on Guara biennis in Missouri.

Hyles gallii fifth instar, Edmonton, Alberta, July 2006,
courtesy of Joanne Bovee, via Robert Bercha, id by Bill Oehlke, confirmed by Jim Tuttle.

Pachysphinx modesta prepupal, Vegreville, Alberta, August 24, 2008, courtesy of David Hibbeln.

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