Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Gayle Garman, August 17, 2017
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 17, 2017

Humboldt County, Northern California, and
Trinity and Mendocino Counties


Smerinthus ophthalmica, Fortuna, Humboldt County, California,
August 16, 2017, courtesy of Gayle Garman.

This page is dedicated to Gayle Garman who found a Smerinthus ophthalmica male on August 16, 2017, in Fortuna, Humboldt County, California.

Gayle writes, "I took this photo outside my office window at the edge of Fortuna, CA in Humboldt Co. The moth has been on the screen since yesterday morning. It moved its wing when I tried to pull away some spider web from its leg.

"It looks like the pictures of the Smerinthus saliceti. But it is on the screen of my office window in Fortuna, CA (Humboldt County).

"Any thoughts?"

I reply: "Hi Gayle, Thanks for thinking of me. Smerinthus saliceti is a good match by appearance, but saliceti would not occur so far north in California. This one is much more likely Smerinthus ophthalmica , and I will post it as such, credited to you, on Humboldt County page that I will very shortly create. Will send you the link once I have done that.""

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

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, 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, the Carolina Sphinx

If you grow tomatoes, you might encounter it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Sphinx chersis, 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, 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, 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, the Sequoiae Sphinx

Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis , 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, 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.

Smerinthus cerisyi, Cerisyi's Sphinx or One-eyed Sphinx.Larvae feed on poplars and willows. Flight would be from late May-July as a single brood. Probably this species is replaced by Ophthalmica in northern and central CA.

Smerinthus opthalmica. 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. Ophthalmica can be grey or brown.

Smerinthus opthalmica, Fortuna, Humboldt County, August 16, 2017, Gayle Garman.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Hemaris thetis, 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, the Achemon Sphinx

It should be present wherever grapes are found.

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

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx (now (2009) classified as Proserpinus lucidus).
This species is confirmed in Tehama County by Rodger Harris, January 9, 2007. It tends to be an early winter-early spring flier, on the wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night.

Hyles lineata, 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, 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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