Sphingidae Larval Checklist
Los Angeles County, California

Hyles lineata feeding on Gaura lindheimerii Siskiyou Pink,
May 29, 2007, Westchester, Los Angeles County, courtesy of Audrey Morris.

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by USGS or anticipated in Los Angeles County.

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

A WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Los Angeles 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.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Audrey Morris who sent me the image of the Hyles lineata larva at the top of the page.

Audrey writes, "On your Hyles lineata lineata page, you mention a report from Texas of it feeding on Gaura lindheimerii in 1996. That's the first time I've seen that mentioned as a food source.

"I have attached a pic (hope this is OK) from May 29, 2007, Westchester, Los Angeles, CA, of a Hyles lineata lineata feeding on Gaura lindheimerii Siskiyou Pink. There were actually at least 2 of them, maybe 3. Just today (June 4) I saw 2. I also have 4 o'clocks (which I can't seem to get rid of!), but there are no caterpillars on those.

"Thank you for the site, I read about it on Whats That Bug?"

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.

Many thanks to Terie Collamer who provides the following image of Sphinx chersis. The dorsal, reddish-brown hue is an indication this caterillar is ready to pupate.

Sphinx chersis final instar, ready to pupate, Los Angeles County, California,
September 22, 2017, courtesy of Terie Collamer, id by Bill Oehlke.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, USGS Pink-spotted hawkmoth. Plants in Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in Americas. Also a brown form. Look for very large, dark spiracular circles.

Manduca quinquemaculata USGS, Five-spotted Hawkmoth. Called Tomato Hornworms; each has black horn at end of the abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). There is also a very beautiful brown form. See bottom of page.

Manduca sexta USGS, Carolina Sphinx. Tobacco Hornworms, equipped with a red-tipped horn at the end of the abdomen, are true gluttons and feed on tobacco and tomato, and occasionally potato and pepper crops and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Sphinx chersis USGS/TC, Great Ash Sphinx. The larvae are pale bluish green. The head has a pair of yellow lateral bands meeting at the apex. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx chersis, September 22, 2017, Terie Collamer

Sphinx perelegans USGS, Elegant Sphinx; Larva has a shield on the first thoracic segment, which is of the same colour as the body and which forms a tight-fitting hood over the vertex of the head. This hides a pair of glossy black spots on top of the head, which are revealed if the animal is disturbed.

Sphinx sequoiae USGS, Sequoiae Sphinx: Larvae feed on California juniper (Juniperus californica) and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. osteosperma).

Sphinx vashti WO, the Snowberry Sphinx Larvae feed on the common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) and on coralberry (S. orbiculatus).

Note the two golden lines of slightly raised bumps, one just behind the head, the other on the thorax.

generally more northerly

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis USGS, the Big Poplar Sphinx. Larvae feed on cottonwood and poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix).

Larvae are very chunky with little to distinguish them from Pachysphinx modesta.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, Cerisy's Sphinx; Resemble modesta larvae, pale green, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, very pale longitudinal lines running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Green heads bounded dorsally with a pale yellow inverted "V".

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini Tribe:

Erinnyis crameri, Cramer's Sphinx, USGS. This species is more likely to occur as an occasional stray rather than as a breeding resident.
As a migrant stray it would be seen later in the season, July-August.

Erinnyis ello USGS, Ello Sphinx. Larvae feed on papaya (Carica papaya), Cnidoscolus angustidens, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), guava (Psidium species) and saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina). Manilkara bahamensis, Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia) and Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla) are also hosts.
Nice socks! Larvae show considerable variation.

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, USGS. Larvae probably feed on various plants in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae): Rauvolfia ligustrina, Rauvolfia tetraphylla, Stemmadenia obovata, Philibertia, Cynanchum, and on papaya (Carica papaya, Caricaceae), and Asclepiadaceae.

Hemaris thetis WO. Larval host plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, high bush cranberry and hawthorn (Crataegus).

Horn is black with a slightly lighter base. This western species was formerly classified as H. diffinis or H. senta. Those species west of the Continental Divide are now classified as H. thetis.

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS, the Achemon Sphinx. Larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies (Ampelopsis). Larvae occur in both a light (green) form and a darker (tan/brown) form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus USGS, Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx

Larvae feed on evening primrose (Oenothera dentata var. campestris) and clarkias. David Wikle fed them on both Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera berlandieri and evening primrose, Oenothera biennis.

Euproserpinus euterpe, Euterpe Sphinx, WO Young caterpillars eat flowers, while older caterpillars eat flowers and new leaves. Larvae feed on Camissonia contorta epilobioides in the primrose family (Onagraceae). This species is listed as "threatened" in its known range.

Euproserpinus phaeton, the Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, USGS Larvae feed on various plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae).

Hyles lineata USGS, White-lined Sphinx

Highly varied, feed on great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), Fuschia. All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Proserpinus clarkiae USGS, Clark's Sphinx. Larvae feed on elegant fairyfan (Clarkia unguiculata) in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae).




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.

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.


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.