Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America; April 7, 2009

Santa Clara County

Hyles lineata, San Mateo County, June 14, 2005, Todd Bomont

Todd Bomont of San Mateo County (very close to Santa Clara border), California, sent me the image of the Hyles lineata larva depicted above from the mid penninsula of the San Francisco Bay area near Palo Alto.

Owen Holt (OH) of San Jose, Santa Clara County, confirms Hyles lineata, Hemaris diffinis, Manduca sexta, Eumorpha achemon and Sphinx perelegens, and sends this beautiful image of Hemaris diffinis.

Hemaris thetis, Mt. Hamilton, Santa Clara County, CA,
May 20, 2009, 2000 foot elevation, courtesy of Owen Holt.

Many thanks to Laurie Weber who sends the following image of Smerinthus cerisyi.

Smerinthus cerisyi, Gilroy, Santa Clara County, California,
April 4, 2009, 1600 feet, couortesy of Laurie Weber.

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for California. Not all of the species are reported by USGS (nine species: Manduca quinquemaculata, Manduca sexta, Sphinx perelegans, Smerinthus cerisyi, Hemaris diffinis, Eumorpha achemon, Arctonotus lucidus, Proserpinus clarkiae and Hyles lineata) are listed by the USGS for Santa Clara 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 Santa Clara 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 Bill Oehlke.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Manduca quinquemaculata USGS, 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 USGS/OH, the Carolina Sphinx

This species is recorded in Santa Clara County.

If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Manduca sexta, August 1, 2005, Owen Holt

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 perelegans USGS/OH, 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 perelegans, June 22, 2001, Owen Holt

Sphinx sequoiae WOQuestionable, the Sequoiae Sphinx

This species is not recorded in Santa Clara County.
Adults fly as a single brood in the desert and in pinyon-juniper woodland from May to August.

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/LW, the Cerisyi's Sphinx or One-eyed Sphinx,

Larvae feed on poplars and willows. Flight would be from early April - late May - July, probably as a single brood. Might have a partial second brood

Smerinthus cerisyi, Gilroy, April 4, 2009, Laurie Weber

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

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.

Hemaris thetis, Owen Holt
Hemaris thetis, Mt. Hamilton, Santa Clara County, May 20, 2009, Owen Holt.

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS/OH, the Achemon Sphinx

This moth is recorded for Santa Clara County, and it should be present wherever grapes are found.

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

Eumorpha achemon, June 18, 2007, May 18, 2008, Owen Holt

Macroglossini Tribe:

Arctonotus lucidus USGS, the Pacific Green Sphinx Moth or Bear Sphinx

This species is confirmed in Santa Clara County.
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 USGS/OH, 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.

Hyles lineata, October 3, 1999, April 13, 25, 2008, Owen Holt

Proserpinus clarkiae USGS, Clark's Sphinx,

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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