Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Jessica Cera, August 17, 2007
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 25, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Chuck Knight, (Manduca sexta larva), Placentia, September 25, 2009, September 7, 2013
Updated as per personal communication with Monika Burke (Smerinthus saliceti (adult moth), San Clemente, August 4, 2016); August 5, 2016

Sphingidae Larval Checklist
Orange County, California

Manduca sexta, August 17, 2007, southern Orange County, California,
courtesy of Jessica Cera

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 Orange 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 Orange 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 Jessica Cera who sent me the image of the Manduca sexta larva at the top of the page.

Jessica writes, "I was looking to identify this caterpillar I found and happened to find your website!

"I'm guessing that it is the tobacco hornworm larva (Manduca sexta), seen today, Aug 17, 2007, in Southern Orange County, California."

Many thanks to Chuck Knight who also confirms Manduca sexta larvae from Placentia, Orange County, September 22, 2009; September 14, 2013.

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.

Visit Orange County Sphingidae Moths.

Visit California Catocala: Underwing Moths

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, WO, Pink-spotted Hawkmoth: Plants in Convolvulaceae family: Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato), in Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed), related plants. Brown form. Large, dark spiracular circles.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, Five-spotted Hawkmoth: Tomato Hornworms. Black horn. Potato, tobacco, tomato, plants in nightshade family (Solanaceae). Very beautiful brown form.

Manduca rustica , Rustic Sphinx: Note the green horn, raised white bumps and strong dark lines anterior to the white ones.

Manduca sexta USGS/JC/CK, Carolina Sphinx: Tobacco Hornworms, equipped with red-tipped horn at end of abdomen; true gluttons; Tobacco, tomato, occasionally potato, pepper crops, other plants in nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Manduca sexta larvae from Placentia, Orange County, September 22, 2009; September 7, 2013, courtesy of Chuck Knight.

Sphinx chersis WO, Great Ash Sphinx: Pale bluish green. The head has a pair of yellow lateral bands meeting at apex. Ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx perelegans WO, Elegant Sphinx: Shield on first thoracic segment, which is same colour as body, forms tight-fitting hood over vertex of head, hiding pair of glossy black spots on top of head, revealed if animal is disturbed.

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

Sphinx vashti WO, Snowberry Sphinx: Common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) coralberry (S. orbiculatus). Note two golden lines of slightly raised bumps, one just behind head, other on thorax. generally more easterly

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, Big Poplar Sphinx: 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; Pale green, granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, pale longitudinal lines running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Green head, pale yellow inverted V.

Smerinthus saliceti WO/MB, Salicet Sphinx; greatly resemble cerisyi larvae: pale green or blue, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, but saliceti have pronounced longitudinal line running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Green heads bounded dorsally with pale yellow inverted "V".

Smerinthus saliceti adult moth, San Clemente, September 4, 2016, Monika Burke.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Erinnyis crameri, Cramer's Sphinx, WO

More likely to occur as an occasional stray rather than as breeding resident. As a migrant stray it would be seen late in season, July-August.

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

Erinnyis obscura, Obscure Sphinx, WO: Apocynaceae: Rauvolfia ligustrina, Rauvolfia tetraphylla, Stemmadenia obovata, Philibertia, Cynanchum, papaya (Carica papaya, Caricaceae), Asclepiadaceae.

Hemaris thetis WO: Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, high bush cranberry, hawthorn (Crataegus). Horn: black with slightly lighter base. Formerly classified as H. diffinis or H. senta. Those species west of Continental Divide are now classified as H. thetis.

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, Achemon Sphinx: Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), other vines, 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 WO, Pacific Green Sphinx Moth, Bear Sphinx: Evening primrose (Oenothera dentata var. campestris), clarkias. David Wikle fed them on both Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera berlandieri, evening primrose, Oenothera biennis.

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

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

Hyles lineata USGS, White-lined Sphinx: Highly varied, feed on diverse plants: willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), Fuschia. Red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Proserpinus clarkiae WO, 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.

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