Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 23, 2009
Sphingidae Larval Checklist
San Diego County, California
Manduca sexta, August 17, 2007, nearby
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 San Diego 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 San Diego 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
Lauren Westfall for her abiding interest in lepidoptera.
Please help me develop this list with improved, documented accuracy by
sending sightings (species, date, location), preferably with an
image, via email to
Visit San Diego County Sphingidae: Sphinx Moths; Hawkmoths
Visit California Catocala: Underwing Moths
If you are travelling, you can find active Sphingidae checklists for all countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbbean via the links at
North, Central, South American Sphingidae checklists
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
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.
Note the green horn, raised white bumps and strong dark lines
anterior to the white ones.
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).
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.
USGS, 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.
Larvae feed on California juniper (Juniperus californica) and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. osteosperma).
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 northerly
Larvae feed on cottonwood and poplar (Populus) and willow
Larvae are very chunky with little to distinguish them
from Pachysphinx modesta.
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
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.
Larvae feed on papaya (Carica papaya), Cnidoscolus
angustidens, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima),
guava (Psidium species) and
saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina).
Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia)
and Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla) are also hosts.
Nice socks! Larvae show considerable variation.
Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx,
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.
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
Larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper
(Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies
Larvae occur in both a light (green) form and a darker (tan/brown)
form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.
USGS, 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.
Larvae feed on various plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae).
USGS, 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
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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