Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, May 6, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with Jordan Craig, May 6, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with John Prince, April 19, 2012
Updated as per personal communication with Joyce (Brea, Manduca sexta; May 4, 2014): May 5, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Alida Cervera (Eumorpha achemon, Laguna beach, July 8, 2014); July 10, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Monika Burke (Smerinthus saliceti, San Clemente, August 4, 2016); August 5, 2016

Orange County


Eumorpha achemon, fourth instar larva, June 25, 2005
Lake Elsinore in nearby Riverside County, courtesy of Peter Sidoruk.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by USGS or anticipated in Orange 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 Orange County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth may be present.

A USGS 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.

Many thanks to Jordan Craig who sent the following image of a male Pachysphinx occidentalis.

Pachysphinx occidentalis male, Tustin, Orange County, California,
May 4, 2010, courtesy of Jordan Craig.

Smerinthus saliceti, San Clemente, Orange County, California,
September 4, 2016, courtesy of Monika Burke.

Many thanks to Joyce who sends the following image from Brea.

Manduca sexta sexta, Brea, Orange County, California,
May 4, 2014, courtesy of Joyce.

Many thanks to Alida Cervera who send sthe following image from Laguna Beach.

Eumorpha achemon, Laguna Canyon, Orange County, California,
July 8, 2014, courtesy of Alida Cervera.

Alida writes, "hello - found your site and am attaching a photo of a moth that was underneath a lot of vines and ferns that I was clearing just outside my front door, in preparation for porch renovation."

I reply, "I suspect the vines were grape vines, a common foodplant of Eumorpha achemon."

Visit Orange County Sphingidae Larvae (Caterpillars).

Visit California Catocala: Underwing Moths

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

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

Manduca sexta USGS/Joyce, the Carolina Sphinx

This species is recorded in Orange County. If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Manduca sexta sexta, Brea, May 4, 2014, courtesy of Joyce.

Sphinx chersis WO, 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 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. maybe

Sphinx sequoiae WO, the Sequoiae Sphinx

This species is not reported in Orange County.

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

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO/JC, the Big Poplar Sphinx

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

Moths would be on the wing from June-August.

Pachysphinx occidentalis male, Tustin, May 4, 2010, courtesy of Jordan Craig.

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.

Smerinthus saliceti WO/MB, the Salicet Sphinx, flies in valleys and along streamsides from Mexico City north to west Texas, southern Arizona, and extreme southern California. Larvae feed on poplars and willows.
Flight would be from late April-September, probably as a double brood.

Smerinthus saliceti, San Clemente, September 4, 2016, Monika Burke

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Aellopos clavipes WO, the Aellopos Sphinx.

The body is dark brown with a wide white band across the abdomen. Wings are dark brown. The forewing has a black cell spot and 3 white spots near the pale brown marginal area. unlikely stray

Callionima falcifera WO

This species is reddish, has falcate wings and flies after midnight.
It is very questionable for Orange County, but may stray into that area. unlikely stray

Erinnyis crameri, the Cramer's Sphinx, WO

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. unlikely stray

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 garden at that time.

Erinnyis obscura, the 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.

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 WO/AC, the Achemon Sphinx. This moth is now reported for Orange County, and should be fairly common. Fight would be from June to August. Larvae feed on grape foliage.

Eumorpha achemon, Laguna Canyon, July 8, 2014, courtesy of Alida Cervera.

Eumorpha fasciatus WO, the Banded Sphinx

This moth is a very strong flier and is often reported far north of its normal range.

It would be a rare stray to Orange County if it is at all present. unlikely stray

Macroglossini Tribe:

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. maybe

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx

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

Hyles lineata, San Juan Capistrano, May 18, 2008, 9 pm., courtesy of Andrea Bink.
Hyles lineata, Huntington Beach, April 7, 2012, courtesy of John Prince

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.

Proserpinus lucidus WO, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx. This species is not confirmed in Orange County.
It tends to be an late winter-early spring flier, on the wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night. maybe

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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