Created/dedicated as per personal communication from Marilyn Jasper, Loomis, September 6, 2011
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 6, 2011
Updated as per BAMONA, September 6, 2011
Updated as per Jeff and Hillary Pierson (Manduca sexta larva, September 7, 2012, Roseville); September 9, 2012

Sphingidae Larval Checklist
Placer County, California

Eumorpha achemon, Loomis, Placer County, California,
September 5, 2011, courtesy of Marilyn Jasper.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Marilyn Jasper of Loomis, Placer County, California. Marilyn sends the Eumorpha achemon larval image at top of page and writes, "I cannot find out what this caterpillar is that I found today on my deck, clinging to a dropped (and dry) pine tree needle. I enclose some photos.

"Thanks for any info or leads you may provide to identify this unique creature (well, unique to me; I’ve lived here over 40 years and never seen one like this).

"Date: 9-5-11, 2 pm—94 degrees, approx.

"Location: Loomis, California, USA

"Description: First found on deck under grapes, clinging to dried pine needle. Was a “taupe” color with very bright white patterned markings. When crawling, stretched out about 2 - 2.5 inches long. When not crawling, about ½ inch in diameter.

"Activity: I put it on a greenish grape leaf, but it wouldn’t eat it. I put a younger leaf down instead, same thing. It eventually made it to the trunk of an oak and began climbing up, but seemed to be searching (mouth) as well.

"I have it in a jar and will try to feed grape leaves as my best guess."

I reply, "It is caterpillar (larva) of the Achemon Sphinx, Eumorpha achemon, and it is done feeding. It was on your deck, probably on its way to the ground to seek some soft earth in which to excavate a subterranean chamber where it would pupate and spend the winter in pupal stage."

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 (now BAMONA) or anticipated in Placer County. Nine species are reported on BAMONA.

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 your county, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present.

A BAMONA indicates the moth is reported on the BAMONA 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.

Please also forward your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

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. The caterpillars are called Tomato Hornworms and each has a black horn at the 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 J&HP, the 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).

Manduca sexta, Roseville, September 7, 2012, Jeff and Hilary Pierson.

Sphinx chersis WO, the 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 drupiferarum BAMONA, the Wild Cherry Sphinx
Larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night. Larvae have been found on Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts and have been reared to pupation in Michigan on Prunus serotina. Note purple oblique lines.

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

Sphinx sequoiae BAMONA, the Sequoiae Sphinx:

Larvae feed on California juniper (Juniperus californica) and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. osteosperma).

Sphinx vashti BAMONA, 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.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, 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.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada.

Skin is quite granulous.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Wild cherry species are the favorites as larval foodplants, but eggs will also be deposited on birches and other forest trees.

There are varying degrees in the amount of red markings along the sides.

Smerinthus cerisyi BAMONA, Cerisy's Sphinx; Cerisyi larvae greatly resemble modesta larvae, both being pale green, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, and very pale longitudinal lines running from the head to a more pronounced anal diagonal line. Larvae have green heads bounded dorsally with a pale yellow inverted "V".

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Hemaris thetis BAMONA,

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 MJ/BAMONA, 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.

Eumorpha achemon, Loomis, September 5, 2011, Marilyn Jasper.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus WO, the 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.

Hyles euphorbiae WO ??, Leafy Spurge Hawk Moth Larvae feed on leafy spurge. Larvae are also conspicuously colored, with a pronounced tail or "horn" near rear end. Young larvae are variously patterned with green, yellow, and black; older larvae have distinctive red, black, yellow, and white color pattern. Mature larvae may approach 10 cm in length; when disturbed, they regurgitate a slimy green liquid.

Hyles lineata BAMONA, the White-lined Sphinx

Larvae are highly varied and feed on a 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), and Fuschia.
All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Proserpinus clarkiae BAMONA, 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.