Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Grace Munakata, August 5, 2011
Updated as per BAMONA, August 5, 2011
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 5, 2011

Alameda County

Manduca sexta fifth istar larvae on tomoatoes,
Berkeley, Alameda County, California,
August 5, 2011, courtesy of Grace Munakata

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Grace Munakata who sends many images of Manduca sexta larvae devouring tomato foliage and excavating tunnels in soft earth. Grace recently had a very interesting experience with the pupae that she overwintered. Check out the link.

Grace is a teacher and a painter. She writes, I "have planted my backyard almost entirely for bugs & birds. Have a butterfly bush that is more like a tree and plenty of milkweed. Have seen no monarchs so far & less than 6 swallowtails. Lots of bees tho."

I recommended she plant some portulaca to bring in Hyles lineata, and I am very surprised she has not recorded Hemaris thetis on her butterfly bush, but they do look quite a bit like large bees!.

Many thanks to Felice O'Ryan who sends this beautiful image of Smerinthus cerisyi, May 1, 2012.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Alameda County, California,
May 2, 2012, courtesy of Felice O'Ryan.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by the USGS for Alameda. Six species are listed by BAMONA as of August 5, 2011.

It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the moths you have encountered.

A WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in your county, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present.

A BAM indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website (now BAMONA) and/or in Moths of Western North America, #2. Distribution of Sphingidae of Western North America, revised, 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 image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This large bodied moth flies in tobacco fields and vegetable gardens (potatoes, tomatoes) and wherever host plants are found.

Manduca sexta BAM/GM, the Carolina Sphinx: The abdomen usually has six pairs of yellow bands, broken across the back. The sixth set of markings is quite small. The upperside of the forewing has indistinct black, brown, and white markings. If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Sphinx chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is soft dark-gray to blue-gray with a series of black dashes, one reaching the wing tip. Note grey thorax with narrow black lines.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, questionable, generally more northerly in CA, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest. I only see them occasionally on P.E.I. despite visiting lights frequently.

Sphinx perelegans WO, the Elegant Sphinx

Sphinx perelegans adults fly in montane woodlands and mixed chaparral-type vegetation as a single brood in the north, with adults mainly on the wing in June and July.

It flies from dusk until after midnight. Note dark thorax.

Sphinx sequoiae WO, the Sequoiae Sphinx: The dark form, occurring from Oregon to central California, has blue-gray forewings with black dashes along the middle. The pale form, in the juniper belt of the rest of the range, is very pale gray with only a faint blue tint. Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, the Big Poplar Sphinx

This one is quite similar to Pachysphinx modesta, with modesta being smaller and darker.

Moths should be on the wing from June-August.

Smerinthus cerisyi BAM, the Cerisyi's Sphinx or One-eyed Sphinx,

Larvae feed on poplars and willows.

Flight would be from late May-July as a single brood.

Smerinthus opthalmica MPNw/FO

Larvae feed on poplars, aspen and willows. Note different shape of double arced forewing pm line compared to the straighter pm line of cerisyi, directly above. S. ophthalmica has smoother scalloping of the fw outer margin.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, May 2, 2012, Felice O'Ryan.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Hemaris thetis BAM, the Thetis Clearwing or Bee Hawk Moth:
The moth flies along forest edges and in meadows, gardens and brushy fields. Day-flying adults nectar at lantana, dwarf bush honeysuckle, snowberry, orange hawkweed, thistles, lilac, Canada violet, etc. Listed as diffinis by BAMONA, but should be thetis.

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx

This moth should be present wherever grapes are found.

Fight would be from June to August. Larvae feed on grape foliage.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus BAM, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx

These moths have a short, stout body. The upperside of the forewing is green to olive green with pink and brown markings. The upperside of the hindwing is pale rose pink with a darker submarginal band.

Hyles lineata BAM, the White-lined Sphinx

Adults usually fly at dusk, during the night, at dawn, and during the day. Moths nectar at salvia and oviposit on Epilobium cana (California fuchsia) and Hooker's Evening Primrose in LA county.

Hyles euphorbiae BAM, the Spurge Hawk Moth
The body is light brown with various white and dark brown markings, while the wings have a conspicuous tan, brown, and pink or red color pattern.

Proserpinus clarkiae BAM, Clark's Sphinx,

Adults fly in the afternoon from April-June in oak woodland and pine-oak woodland in foothills, nectaring from chia, heartleaf milkweed, golden currant, bluedicks, fairyfans, vetches, thistles, hedgenettles, etc.

Enjoy some of nature's wonderments, giant silk moth cocoons. These cocoons are for sale winter and fall. Beautiful Saturniidae moths will emerge the following spring and summer. Read Actias luna rearing article. Additional online help available.

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