Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, May 4, 2009

San Luis Obispo County


Hyles lineata, Deer Canyon, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo County, California,
April 6, 2009, courtesy of Brad Schram.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by USGS or anticipated in San Luis Obispo 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 Luis Obispo County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or might be encountered as an occasional stray.

This page is dedicated to and inspired by Brad Schram who provides the Hyles lineata image at the top of the page.

Brad writes, "I read that there has been a large movement of these moths on the California coast this year. I've seen many more than normal here the past week or so. Deer Canyon, Arroyo Grande, California, April 6, 2009."

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 Bill Oehlke.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth" Abdomen usually has five, sometimes six pairs of yellow bands. Forewing upperside blurry brown and gray. Hw upperside banded with brown and white, with two well-separated median zigzag bands. Forewing fringes grayish, not distinctly spotted with white.

Manduca sexta WO, the Carolina Sphinx: Abdomen usually has six pairs of yellow bands, broken across the back. Sixth set quite small. Fw upperside has indistinct black, brown, and white markings. Hw upperside banded with black and white, with two black zigzag median lines that are very close together with hardly any white between them. Fw fringes spotted with white.

Sphinx chersis USGS, 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 of which reaches the wing tip.

Sphinx perelegans USGS, 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.

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.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, 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 USGS, 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.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Erinnyis ello, the Ello Sphinx, WO?

The abdomen has very distinct gray and black bands.

Adults nectar at dusk so you may see them in the garen at that time, more likely as a stray.

Hemaris thetis USGS, 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 USGS, the Achemon Sphinx

The forewing is light grey and brown with many lines, and there are dark patches near the middle of the inner margin, near the apex and near the anal angle. The entire basal area of the hindwing is pink. Fight would be from June to August. Larvae feed on grape foliage.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus USGS, the Pacific Green These moths have a short, stout body. The upperside of the forewing is green to olive green with pink and brown markings. The upperside of the hindwing is pale rose pink with a darker submarginal band.

Euproserpinus euterpe, the Euterpe Sphinx, USGS

Euproserpinus euterpe adults fly in pastures and fallow fields as a single brood from late January-February-April. They nectar at flowers of filaree (Erodium) and Nemophila during the warm parts of the day. This species is listed as "threatened" in its known range.

Euproserpinus phaeton, the Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, USGS

Adults nectar at flowers during the warm parts of the day.
Euproserpinus phaeton adults fly swiftly and close to the ground over dry washes and flat areas in deserts as a single brood from February-April.

Hyles lineata USGS/BS/AY, the White-lined Sphinx

Adults usually fly at dusk, during the night, at dawn, and during the day. Trish Meyer reports moths nectaring at salvia and ovipositing on Epilobium cana (California fuchsia) and Hooker's Evening Primrose.

Hyles lineata, Deer Canyon, Arroyo Grande, April 6, 2009, Brad Schram
Hyles lineata, Templeton, March 28, 2013, Aaron Yonker

Proserpinus clarkiae USGS, Clark's Sphinx,

Adults fly in the afternoon from March-April-June in oak woodland and pine-oak woodland in foothills, nectaring from chia, heartleaf milkweed, golden currant, bluedicks, fairyfans, vetches, thistles, hedgenettles, etc.

Hyles lineata, Templeton, San Luis Obispo County, California,
March 28, 2013, courtesy of Aaron Yonker.

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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