Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Melissa Humphreys, August 12, 2011
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 13, 2011
Updated as per BAMONA, August 13, 2011

San Joaquin County, California

Eumorpha achemon, San Joaquin County, California,
August 12, 2011, from found larva, courtesy of Melissa Humphreys.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed on the BAMONA website for California. Not all of the species are reported by BAMONA for San Joaquin. (Four species: Manduca sexta, Pachysphinx occidentalis, Hemaris thetis, Arctonotus lucidus are listed by BAMONA for San Joaquin County).

I believe it is more likely Smerinthus ophthalica rather than Smerinthus cerisyi that flies in San Joaquin County.

Judy Rebeiro recently (late March 2017) ecountered a female that deposited some fertile eggs. If she is successful in rearing some to mature larvae stage perhaps we will know for sure whether they are opthalmica or cerisy. 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 your county, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present.

This page is dedicated to Melissa Humphreys, San Joaquin County, California. Jewelle provides the images of Eumorpha achemon (adult moth) and Manduca sexta (larva) on top and bottom of this page.

Melissa writes, August 12, 2011, "I live in the Central Valley in California (San Joaquin County). I found a tomato hornworm in my garden eating the grape leaves so I brought it inside and took care of it so the birds wouldn't get it. It is now a moth. When I look up pictures for the tomato hornworm moth it looks completely different, and pictures of the pandorus worm looks completely different from the caterpillar I had. I'm a little confused.

"Also, is it common for these little guys to be picky eaters? I found a second worm in my garden after the first had already entered pupa stage. The first liked grape leaves but the second won't eat anything but potato leaves. It's really picky."

I reply, "Hi Jewelle,

"The caterpillar eating the grape leaves was not a tomato hornworm. They do not eat grape leaves. It was most likely a caterpillar of Eumorpha achemon. I suspect the moth is also an Eumorpha achemon (bottom of page). The Pandorus Sphinx does not fly in California.

"If you or one of your friends has a camera and can take some pictures and send them to me as jpg attachments, I can make better determinations.

"Different Sphingidae species do eat different foodplants, but often a single species will eat more than one foodplant.

"I have just received your pictures. The moth is Eumorpha achemon. It came from the "fat caterpillar" without a horn that was eating grape foliage. The caterpillar with the red horn (top of page) is Manduca sexta."

Eumorpha achemon inflating, San Joaquin County, California,
August 12, 2011, from found larva, courtesy of Jewelle.

When the moths first emerge from their pupae, their wings are short, stubby and quite soft. The moth needs to climb and hang to that it can pump fluid into its wing veins so the wings can properly inflate and then stiffen for flight. Jewelle has sent an image (above) with the wings almost completely inflated. The wings probably would have been only 1/4 to 1/3 as long when the moth first broke forth from its pupa.

A green 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 sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

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 BAMONA/MH, the Carolina Sphinx

If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant. Occasionally they feed on potato foliage and leaves of other plants.

Manduca sexta larva on potato foliage, August 12, 2011, Melissa Humphreys

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, the Wild Cherry Sphinx, WO ??: FW dull slate grey with considerable light grey scaling in broad band along costa about 3/4 of distance from body toward apex. Median lines are black and thin. There is a wavy, diffuse dark subterminal line, inwardly bordered by white, and whitish bar in terminal area, paralleling outer margin.

Sphinx perelegans WO, 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 sequoiae WO, the Sequoiae Sphinx: The dark form, occurring from Oregon to central California, has blue-gray forewings with black dashes along the middle. The pale form, in the juniper belt of the rest of the range, is very pale gray with only a faint blue tint. Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis BAMONA, 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.

Smerinthus cerisyi 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.

Smerinthus opthalmica MPNw

Larvae feed on poplars, aspen and willows. Note different shape of double arced forewing pm line compared to the straighter pm line of cerisyi, which it replaces in WA. S. ophthalmica has smoother scalloping of the fw outer margin.

Smerinthus ophthalmica probably replaces cerisyi in northern and central California.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Hemaris thetis BAMONA, 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 MH, the Achemon Sphinx

This moth should be present wherever grapes are found.

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

Eumorpha achemon adult moth, August 12, 2011, Melissa Humphreys

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus BAMONA, Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx: Short, stout body. Fw upperside: green to olive green with pink and brown markings. Hw upperside: pale rose pink with a darker submarginal band.It tends to be an late winter-early spring flier, on the wing in the early evening. It comes to lights at night. Now Proserpinus lucidus.

Hyles lineata WO, 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.

Proserpinus clarkiae WO, Clark's Sphinx: Fw upperside: greenish gray; median area may be dark or pale. Hw upperside: bright orangish yellow with black borders. Adults fly in 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.

Manduca sexta fifth instar, San Joaquin County, California,
feeding on potato foliage, August 12, 2011, courtesy of Melissa Humphreys.

Manduca sexta fifth instar, San Joaquin County, California,
feeding on potato foliage, August 12, 2011, courtesy of Melissa Humphreys.

Visit San Joaquin County Sphingidae Larvae for a thumbnail checklist of the Sphingidae caterpillars you are likely to encounter in San Joaquin County.

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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