Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 16, 2011
Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Michelle Campbell-LaRock, (Smerinthus saliceti moth), Riverside, September 12, 2011
Updated as per BAMONA, September 16, 2011

Sphingidae Larval Checklist
Riverside County, California

Smerinthus saliceti, green and blue forms, courtesy of Bruce Walsh,
possibly just a regional form of Smerinthus cerisyi.

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 (Now BAMONA) for California. Not all of the species are reported by BAMONA or anticipated in Riverside County. Twenty species are reported as adult moths by BAMONA as of September 16, 2011.

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.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Michelle Campbell-LaRock who sent me images of an adult Smerinthus saliceti moth. The images were a bit blurry, but show a moth that is either Smerinthus cerisyi or Smerinthus saliceti. I have gone with saliceti because of orangey-brown ground colour, rather than grey brown more typical of cerisyi. Hindwings are not visible. Cerisyi is also more typically a single brooded species, while saliceti tends to double brood with a second flight in August-September in southern California, although it is generally known in California only from extreme southeastern section closer to Arizona. "It is possible that saliceti is nothing more than a regional form of cerisyi" (James P. Tuttle)

Michelle writes , September 14, 2011, "A couple nights ago I found this moth that was laying its eggs, and I put her in a box with some grape leaves. The next night the box was full of eggs. What is the next step? What type of food and climate do the larvae need to survive? I have attached a couple of pictures of the mother moth. Please advise..."

I reply, "Probably Smerinthus cerisyi or Smerinthus saliceti. Location (precise) would probably help. You can treat eggs as per egg treatment on http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/Actiaslunarearing.htm.

"For more detailed instructions have photographer contact me with location. Also read http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/eggcare.htm. The above articles pertain to Saturniidae eggs, but also apply to Sphingidae up until time of pupation."

"I found it on my screen in Riverside, California. The eggs are already attached to leaves. What should I do?

The eggs are pretty tough, and you should remove some (probably about a dozen) from the side of the box or from the foliage. Put the detached eggs in a sandwich sized plastic container, lid on tight, no air holes, as per egg care article linked above. The larvae should hatch from the eggs in just a couple more days, and at that time you can offer them willow or poplar foliage as per Actias luna rearing article.

"It would probably not be wise for you to try rearing all of the eggs, so you take take the remaining eggs, still affixed to the grape leaves, and place the grape leaves over some foliage on a poplar or willow branch. Staple the detached leaves to live leaves if wind is a problem. There are not the same problems with leaves on foliage outdoors as there are with leaves on foliage in a closed container indoors. If there are many eggs affixed to the sides and bottom of the box, you can place the box, upside down, over some live foliage outdoors. The hatchling larvae with crawl onto the foliage and begin feeding.

"For the ones that you are going to keep, treat them as per luna larvae in the Actias luna rearing article. Email me again, a couple of weeks after the larvae have hatched for more detailed instructions about preparing for pupation. Best of luck."

"Actually it was my husband Kevin LaRock who discovered the moth. He has worked very hard to help the larvae thrive and he deserves the credit... Thank you"; and on September 27: "Just wanted to let you know that the larvae hatched and my husband is successfully rearing at least 20 catepillars."

"Continue feeding them as per the luna article. When they are aboutt two to two-and-a-half inches long, they are almost mature. You will know they are done feeding when there is foliage in the container, but instead of eating it, they are crawling around on bottom of container. At that time, follow instructions for pupation at For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall."

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 submit your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, BAMONA, Pink-spotted hawkmoth,

Larvae feed on plants in the Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in the Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in the Americas. There is also a brown form. Look for very large, dark spiracular circles.

Manduca quinquemaculatus BAMONA, 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 rustica BAMONA, the Rustic Sphinx

Note the green horn, raised white bumps and strong dark lines anterior to the white ones.

Manduca sexta BAMONA, 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).

Sphinx chersis BAMONA, 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 perelegans BAMONA, the Elegant Sphinx; A unique feature of this larva is 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 BAMONA, the 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 easterly

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis BAMONA, 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 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".

Smerinthus saliceti MCL/BAMONA, Salicet Sphinx; Saliceti larvae greatly resemble cerisyi larvae, both being pale green or blue, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, but saliceti have a pronounced longitudinal line running from the head to a more pronounced anal diagonal line. Larvae have green heads bounded dorsally with a pale yellow inverted "V".

Smerinthus saliceti adult moth, Riverside, September 14, 2011, Michelle Campbell-LaRock

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Aellopos clavipes BAMONA, might occur as a rare stray adult moth, but it is not believed there are breeding populations in California.

Erinnyis crameri, the Cramer's Sphinx, BAMONA.

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 BAMONA, the 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, BAMONA.
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 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 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.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus BAMONA, 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.

Euproserpinus phaeton, the Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, BAMONA.

Larvae feed on various plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae).

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.

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