Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Timothy Sakhuja, August 18, 2010.
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 18, 2010.
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America, formerly USGS, August 18, 2010.

Placer County, California

Sphinx perelegans Kings Beach, Placer County, California,
taken at UV light, July 6, 2010, courtesy of Timothy Sakhuja.

This page is dedicated to Timothy Sakhuja who sent me images of Sphinx perelegans and Sphinx vashti, taken at UV collecting light in Kings Beach [Lake Tahoe], California (Placer County) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 10.40 pm. on July 6, 2010.

Sphinx vashti Kings Beach, Placer County, California,
taken at UV light, July 6, 2010, courtesy of Timothy Sakhuja.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by the USGS for Placer County. (Nine species are listed by the USGS for Placer County as of August 18, 2010).

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 Placer 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.

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 also to Jeff and Hillary Pierson of Roseville who provide the following image of a Manduca sexta larva.

Manduca sexta fifth instar, Roseville, Placer County, California,
September 7, 2012, courtesy of Jeff and Hillary Pierson.

Manduca sexta larva host, Roseville, Placer County, California,
September 7, 2012, courtesy of Jeff and Hillary Pierson.

Manduca sexta larva host, Roseville, Placer County, California,
September 7, 2012, courtesy of Jeff and Hillary Pierson.

James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America is an excellent reference. His distribution map for Manduca sexta for California shows western Placer County as the edge of the northeastern distribution for Manduca sexta in California. I wondered if possibly an egg of an immature larva had been imported on the store purchased host, but Jeff indicates the potted plant was purchased at Home Depot in May, around Mother's Day, and the larval image was taken in early September, September 7, 2012. Our conclusion is that the egg was deposited in Placer County, probably some time in late July or in very early August.

Roseville is near the center of Placer County, probably slightly east of the range indicated on James P. Tuttle's distribution map.

I believe the host plant is a Petunia species in the Solanceae family.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

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 sexta J&HP, the Carolina Sphinx: Abdomen usually has six pairs of yellow bands, broken across the back. Sixth set quite small. Fw upperside has indistinct black, brown, and white markings. Hw upperside banded with black and white, with two black zigzag median lines that are very close together with hardly any white between them. Fw fringes spotted with white.

Manduca sexta larva, Roseville, September 7, 2012, Jeff and Hillary Pierson.

Sphinx chersis WO, 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 USGS, 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 USGS/TS, 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. Note dark thorax.

Sphinx perelegans, Kings Beach, July 6, 2010, courtesy of Timothy Sakhuja.

Sphinx sequoiae USGS, the Sequoiae Sphinx

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

Sphinx vashti USGS/TS, the Snowberry Sphinx

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 running inwards from the apex of the wing.
It is most often found in montane woodlands and along streamcourses.

Sphinx vashti, Kings Beach, July 6, 2010, courtesy of Timothy Sakhuja.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, 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 WO, 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.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

This small species might be present. This species ranges across North America.

The hindwings have a small blue eyespot ringed with black on a yellow background.

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.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

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 should be present wherever grapes are found.

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

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus WO, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx

This species is confirmed in nearby Butte County by Patience Hervey, December 29-30, 2005.
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 USGS, 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 USGS, 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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