Butte County, California

Arctonotus lucidus courtesy of T. W. Davies, enhanced by Dennis Haines.

This page is dedicated to Patience Hervey (PH) of Butte County, California. Patience sent me sightings of Arctonotus lucidus on December 29-30. The first moth was discovered on December 29, 2005, in heavy rain (51 F). The second moth (most likely a female) was taken around 6:00 pm on December 30, also in heavy rain.

Patience writes, "I was just linked to your site during a search to figure out what kind of moth we found. We just found him on our front porch. It was 12:35 PM, and it is only 51 degrees here, with down pouring rain, and 20 + mph winds. We live in Chico, CA on 5 acres.

"We have been receiving record rainfall for the past week. I donít know where he came from because yesterday was the only day in the past week that we saw the sun peek through briefly in between the showers, and according to what Iíve been reading they live on primrose, but Iíve havenít seen any flowers around here for weeks.

"It is definitely a Pacific Green Sphinx; it looks exactly like the first picture on your site, only his body is a little fatter. My kids put it in their butterfly habitat and have been looking at it. We were wondering their life span is, and can you make nectar to feed them? Any further information would be greatly appreciated."

I wrote back "It is the larvae (caterpillars) that feed on evening primrose. I suspect they only live as adults for five to seven days. I suspect they do not eat as adults; they probably live off fats stored from caterpillar days. I am surprised they would be flying so far north this early in the season. It may have been aided in flight by some strong winds from further south.

The following day Patience writes, "Thank you very much for the information. I thought it was quite interesting to find him in this weather too, but we actually found another one around 6:00 this evening on the front porch soaking wet, and it was actually shivering.

"We brought it inside too and put it in the butterfly habitat with the other one."

Many thanks to Adam Heichelbech who provides the folowing images of a male Smerinthus ophthalmica. I think the recently elevated ophthalmica probably replaces S. cerisyi in Butte County.

Smerinthus ophthalmica male, Chico, Butte County, California,
March 20, 2015, courtesy of Adam Heichelbech, id by Bill Oehlke.

Smerinthus ophthalmica male, Chico, Butte County, California,
March 20, 2015, courtesy of Adam Heichelbech, id by Bill Oehlke.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by the USGS for Butte. (Six species: Manduca sexta, Sphinx perelegans, Sphinx sequoiae, Smerinthus cerisyi (more likely S. ophthalmica), Pachysphinx occidentalis and Arctonotus lucidus are listed by the USGS for Butte County.)

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 Butte County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present.

A USGS indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website 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 quinquemaculata 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 USGS, the Carolina Sphinx

This species is recorded in Butte County.

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, 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 USGS, 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 USGS, the Sequoiae Sphinx

This species is recorded in Butte County.
Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

Sphinx vashti WO, the Snowberry Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing has a narrow black subterminal line bordered by a white inverted V-shaped line on the outside, and a black line running inwards from the apex of the wing.
It is most often found in montane woodlands and along streamcourses.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis USGS, 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.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

The grey-blue eyespot (without a black center pupil) of the hindwing gives this species its name. Larvae feed on birches, willows, cherries and oaks.

The outer edge of the forewings is quite scalloped.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

This small species might be present. This species ranges across North America.

The hindwings have a small blue eyespot ringed with black on a yellow background.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, 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. More likely ophthalmica in Butte County.

Smerinthus opthalmica AH

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, Chico, March 20, 2015, Adam Heichelbech

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Erinnyis ello, the Ello Sphinx, WO

The abdomen has very distinct gray and black bands.
Adults nectar at dusk so you may see them in the garen at that time. possibly a rare stray in late summer

Hemaris thetis WO, 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.

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx

This moth is not recorded for Butte County, but it should be present wherever grapes are found.

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

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus PH/USGS, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx

This species is confirmed in Butte County by Patience Hervey, December 29-30, 2005.
It tends to be an early winter-early spring flier, on the wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night.

Euproserpinus phaeton, the Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, WO

Adults nectar at flowers during the warm parts of the day.
Euproserpinus phaeton adults fly swiftly and close to the ground over dry washes and flat areas in deserts as a single brood from February-April. very unlikely

Hyles lineata WO, 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.

Proserpinus clarkiae WO, 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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