Created/dedicated as per personal comunication with Allison Rung, August 2010
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 26, 2010
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America, formerly USGS, August 2010
San Francisco County
San Francisco, San francisco County, California,
August 20, 2010, Allison Rung
This page is dedicated to Allison Rung
(AR) of San Francisco County, California. Allison
sent me the image of the Hyles lineata moth depicted above
from San Francisco.
Allison writes, "I found your website address on whatsthatbug.com, where I learned that the moth I found on my front steps last week (August 20) is a
white-lined sphinx! I attach a photo though I regret its quality is poor. I think this specimen may have been sick, because it readily crawled into my
palm, and seemed to be fluttering nervously as I transferred it to a place where it was less likely to get crushed underfoot.
"I read on your site that this isn't a rare species, but I thought this sighting might be of interest to you. Is it? Thanks for the site."
I replied, "I am interested in all sightings of Sphingidae with images and data (date and location). This species has very strong
migrating tendancies, and may have been worn out after a long flight,
or it may have still been mesmerized by lights that attracted it during the night. Sometimes the fluttering is an attempt to raise body temperature in preparation for flight.
If you were having an unusualy cool morning, maybe it was thermoregulating."
Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for
California. Not all of the species are reported by the USGS for San Francisco.
(Two species: Hyles lineata and Proserpinus clarkiae are listed by the
USGS for San Francisco County.)
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 San Francisco 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
This large bodied moth flies in tobacco fields and vegetable gardens
(potatoes, tomatoes) and wherever host plants are found.
This species is recorded in San Mateo County.
If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.
Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.
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.
WO, questionable, generally more northerly in CA,
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
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.
This species is recorded in San Mateo County.
Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper
woodland from May to August.
This one is quite similar to Pachysphinx modesta, with modesta
being smaller and darker.
Moths should be on the wing from June-August.
WO, 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.
Hemaris thetis WO, 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.
This moth is not recorded for San Francisco County,
but it should be present wherever grapes are found.
Fight would be from June to August. Larvae feed on grape foliage.
WO, the Pacific Green
Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx
This species is not confirmed in San Mateo
It tends to be an late winter-early spring flier, on the
wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night.
Hyles lineata, San Francisco, August 20, 2010, Allison Rung
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 in LA county.
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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Please send sightings/images to Bill. I will do my best to respond to requests for identification help.
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