Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 14, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with J. Bartow (Arctonotus lucidus, Stallion Springs, February 12, 2017); February 13, 2017

Kern County, California

Arctonotus lucidus, Stallion Springs, Kern County, California,
February 12, 2017, courtesy of J. Bartow.

This page is dedicated to J. Bartow who provides the beautiful image of Arctonotus lucidus above.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS (Now BAMONA) for California. Not all of the species are reported by USGS or anticipated in Kern 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 Kern County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or might be encountered as an occasional stray.

A USGS indicates themoth 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:

Agrius cingulata USGS

This species is enountered in Kern County and in other southern California counties.
The moth is a very strong flier and is frequently encountered far north of its usual range.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS/AJ, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

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

Manduca quinquemaculatus, Mojave Air and Spaceport, Mojave, (just north of Lancaster), Aleta Jackson

Manduca rustica WO, Rustic Sphinx. This species is not recorded in Kern County on USGS site. I would not be surprised to get reports although Kern County would be near the northern limit of its range in California. Look for three large yellow spots on each side of the abdomen.

Manduca sexta USGS, Carolina Sphinx. This species is recorded in Kern County. If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Sphinx chersis USGS, 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 of which reaches the wing tip.

Sphinx perelegans USGS, 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.

Sphinx sequoiae USGS, Sequoiae Sphinx. This species is reported in Kern County. Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

Sphinx vashti USGS, Snowberry Sphinx. Snowberry Sphinx adults fly as a single brood in montane woodlands and along prairie streamcourses from April to August.
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 at the apex.

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.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, Cerisyi's Sphinx or One-eyed Sphinx. Larvae feed on poplars and willows.

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

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Erinnyis ello, 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, more likely as a stray.

Erinnyis obscura, . Obscure Sphinx, WO?. 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. More likely as a stray.

Hemaris thetis USGS, 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 USGS, the Achemon Sphinx. This moth is reported for Kern County, and should be fairly common.

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

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus USGS/JB, Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx. This species is confirmed in Kern County.
It tends to be an late winter-early spring flier, on the wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night.

Arctonotus lucidus, Stallion Springs, February 12, 2017, J. Bartow.

Euproserpinus euterpe, the Euterpe Sphinx, USGS. Euproserpinus euterpe adults fly in pastures and fallow fields as a single brood from late January-February-April. They nectar at flowers of filaree (Erodium) and Nemophila during the warm parts of the day. This species is listed as "threatened" in its known range.

Euproserpinus phaeton, the Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, USGS. 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.

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx. Adults usually fly at dusk, during the night, at dawn, and during the day. Trish Meyer reports moths nectaring at salvia and ovipositing on Epilobium cana (California fuchsia) and Hooker's Evening Primrose.

Proserpinus clarkiae USGS/KD, Clark's Sphinx. Adults fly in the afternoon from March-April-June in oak woodland and pine-oak woodland in foothills, nectaring from chia, heartleaf milkweed, golden currant, bluedicks, fairyfans, vetches, thistles, hedgenettles, etc.

Proserpinus clarkiae, March 19, Kelso Valley, streambeds, alighting on dry sand, numerous; Ken Davenport

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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You can also visit California Catocala: Underwing Moths; and
Kern County Sphingidae Larvae: Kern County Sphingidae Caterpillars from this page.

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