Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, July 2008
Mobile County, Alabama
Manduca rustica, Mobile, Alabama, August 25, 2005,
courtesy of Vickie McWhirter.
This page is inspired by and dedicated to
Vickie McWhirter who sent me the images of Manduca rustica
and Manduca sexta
at the top and bottom of this page.
Vickie writes, "I was very glad to find your site. I am in Mobile,
Alabama, and have seen the moth and wasn't sure what it was. I have
asked many people and no one seems to know either. I have night
blooming flowers that they just love. I finally got two close up
photos of them (Manduca rustica and Manduca sexta).
Just wanted to thank you again for your site."
Twenty-seven Sphingidae species are listed for Alabama on the U.S.G.S.
website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in
(Only Lapara coniferarum is reported on U.S.G.S.). It is hoped
that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you
quickly identify the moths you are likely to encounter.
A "WO" after the species name indicates that
I have no confirmed reports of this species in Mobile County, but I
(William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or
might be present.
indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website and/or in
Lepidoptera of North America, #1. Distribution of Silkmoths (Saturniidae) and Hawkmoths (Sphingidae)
of Eastern North America,
an excellent little booklet available through Paul Opler.
Please help me develop this list with improved, documented accuracy
by sending sightings (species, date, location), preferably with an
electronic image, via email to
The night-blooming moon flower will attract many
Sphingidae at dusk and into the night.
WO Pink-spotted hawkmoth,
This species is a strong migrant and adults nectar from
deep-throated flowers including moonflower (Calonyction aculeatum),
morning glory (Convolvulus), honey suckle (Lonicera)
and petunia (Petunia species).
the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx
The upperside of the forewing is brown with dark brown and white markings including a white costal area near the wing base, dark streaks along the veins,
and a white spot in the cell.
Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and
The upperside of the forewing is yellowish brown with no white markings, but there are indistinct black lines and dashes. The cell spot is gray with a black outline. The larvae feed in large groups and are much more
spectacular than the moths.
Catalpa is the larval host.
The upperside of the forewing is pale brownish gray with wavy black
and white lines and a black-outlined white cell spot. The upperside
of the hindwing is gray with diffuse darker bands.
The upperside of the forewing is dark brown with a dusting of white
scales. Some moths have patches of reddish or yellowish brown on the
WO, the Cypress or Baldcypress Sphinx
Isoparce cupressi, the rare Cypress Sphinx, flies in Cypress swamps in Georgia (specimen type locality), and from Maryland to Texas.
It has been reported in Mexico.
If you have pines, you
might have this species.
The upperside is of the forewing is gray with two
(sometimes one or three) black dashes near the wing center; other
markings are usually diffuse. The upperside of the hindwing is a
If you've got pines, this species is likely present.
The upperside of forewing is gray to grayish brown with a black line
running from the middle of the costa to the middle of the outer
margin; the line may be broken near the margin. There is a splash of
brown around the cell spot.
I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter Manduca quinquemaculata.
Look for three large yellow spots
on each side of the abdomen. The upperside of the forewing is
yellowish brown to deep chocolate brown with a dusting of white
scales and zigzagged black and white lines.
If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered Manduca sexta
in the larval stage.
Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.
The upperside of the forewing is gray with indistinct black and
white markings. There is a series of black dashes
from the base to the tip, and a small white cell spot.
The costal half of the forewings are grey, but the posterior portion
is a distinctive warm yellowish-brown; the boundary between these two
areas is marked with a series of dark diagonal streaks. Similar to
S. kalmiae but lacks the dark bar
along the fw inner margin.
The lower forewings are predominantly brownish-yellow with a fairly
wide dark bar along the inner margin. At rest the wings hug the body,
giving the moth a long slender look. unlikely
The adults are also highly variable; sometimes wings of an individual
may be all one color or may have several colors, ranging from pale to
dark brown, and may have a white or pink tinge. Patterns range from
faint to pronounced.
See the file for the female; she is different.
the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
They are common on Prince Edward Island.
Paonias astylus flies from March-September in Florida and from
April-September in Louisiana. There is one brood northward from
This appears to be an uncommon species.
Named for the dull grey-blue spot (minus dark pupil) in the hindwing,
this moth has a wide distribution in the eastern United States.
I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported
as far south as Florida.
Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide
distribution and is probably common in Frederick County.
I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported
as far south as Florida.
This moth is widely distributed and fairly common.
Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.
WO, the Titan Sphinx. possible stray
The body is dark brown with a wide white stripe across the abdomen.
The wings are dark brown. It is very similar to above species, but the
upperside of the hindwing has
pale patches along the costa and inner margin.
The body and wings are dark brown. The forewing has a large black
patch covering most of the outer half of the wing. There is a pale
tan cell spot (dark inner pupil), and a fairly straight median line
to the inside of the cell spot.
During the night adults nectar at flowers, including bouncing bet
(Saponaria officinalis) and Asystasia gangetica beginning at dusk.
July and August are flight times in the southern states.
See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish
the next two species.
WO, the Hummingbird Clearwing
It is not difficult to see why many gardeners would mistake an
Hemaris thysbe moth for a small hummingbird as it hovers,
sipping nectar from flowers through a long feeding tube.
Hemaris diffinis WO, the
Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to
brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to
dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2
yellow segments before the tip.
The upperside of the forewing is dark brown with a dark spot at the
base of the costa and blurry gray and white markings. The upperside
of the hindwing is dark brown with white along the inner margin, and
the lower half of the outer margin. (remote possibility)
Larvae get large and feed on grape vines and Virginia creeper.
Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.
WO, the Banded Sphinx
The upperside of the moth is dark pinkish brown. Each forewing has a
lighter brown band along the costa, and sharp pinkish white bands and
streaks. Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose)
and other plants in the evening primrose family.
WO, the Intermediate Sphinx
The Intermediate Sphinx Moth, (Eumorpha intermedia), (Wing span: 3 9/16 - 3 7/8 inches (9 - 9.8 cm)), flies in lower austral and subtropical lowlands in North Carolina, Florida,
Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Texas. posibility
If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you probably have
I often get asked to identify larvae from areas not
the Typhon Sphinx.
The upperside of wings is deep red-brown with pale brown bands. Each
hindwing has pink along the costal margin and a triangular white spot
on the outer part of the inner margin. possible rare stray, based on Derek Bridgehouse report from Madison County.
This day flier is widely distributed. If you have Virginia Creeper, you
probably have the Nessus Sphinx.
Two bright, distinct, narrow yellow
bands are often visible on the abdomen.
The lower wings of this hawkmoth are a solid brownish-orange,
matching the body colour.
You will often see this species listed as Darapsa pholus,
especially in older literature.
Darapsa myron WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx
If you have the
foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this
species nearby. The lower wings are orange.
If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you might have the
The moth's outer margin of the forewing is deeply scalloped.
The upperside is light brown with dark brown markings.
There is a small black and white spot near the tip.
Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper
(Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.
Hyles lineata WO, the White-lined Sphinx
This species has
strong migrating tendancies from much further south.
There are records from New Hampshire and Maine.
This moth is very much under reported across the United States. It
is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections.
Grape is a popular larval host.
This moth is much more common to the south. It is a strong migrant,
however, and may establish itself in Mobile County periodically.
Manduca sexta, Mobile, Alabama, August 28, 2005,
courtesy of Vickie McWhirter.
Vickie took this image just before the "storm", Hurricane Katrina,
hit the Gulf Coast. She was without power for six days and sent the
image when power was restored.
Vickie writes, " I would like to thank you very much for putting
my photo on the site. I have shared it with many people who,
like me, didn't know about the moth.
"The storm took all of my moon flowers, but I did get one more
good photo the nite before the storm. I would like to share
with you. It will probably be the last I will get till next year."
My prayers have been with the people of the Gulf Coast and with all
those who are trying to help. Vickie's last line brought tears
to my eyes. I look forward to next year! Best of luck to all of
you who have been hard hit by Katrina.
Use your browser "Back" button to return to the previous page.
This page is brought to you by
Bill Oehlke and the
WLSS. Pages are on space rented from Bizland. If you would like
to become a "Patron of the Sphingidae Site", contact Bill.
Please send sightings/images to Bill. I will do my best to respond to
requests for identification help.
Enjoy some of nature's wonderments: Saturniidae cocoons.
Cocoons of the giant silkmoths may be purchased in the fall and winter. Big and beautiful giant silk moths will emerge in spring/summer.
Read Actias luna rearing article. Additional online help available.
Show appreciation for this site by clicking on flashing butterfly to the left.
The link will take you to a page with links to many insect sites.
This website has been created and is maintained by Bill Oehlke without government or institutional financial assistance. All expenses, ie., text reference
support material, webspace rental from Bizland, computer repairs/replacements, backups systems, software for image adjustments (Adobe Photoshop; L-View),
ftp software, anti-virus protection, scanner, etc. are my own.
I very much appreciate all the many images that have been sent to me, or of which I have been granted permission to copy and post from other websites.
All images on this site remain the property of respective photographers.
If you would like to contribute to the maintenace of this website by sending a contribution to
155 Peardon Road
Montague, Prince Edward Island, C0A1R0
your donation would be much appreciated and would be used for
1) paying for webspace rental;
2) paying for computer maintenance and software upgrades;
3) purchases of additional text reference material (journals and books) in anticipation of expanding the site to a worldwide Sphingidae site;
4) helping to pay my daughter's tuition; with anything left over going to humanitarian aid.
If you are mailing a check from USA, please use $0.85 postage. Donations can also be made through Paypal via the button below.