Inspired and dedicated as per personal communication with Jodi Willis, October 7, 2010; October 10, 2010
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, October 10, 2010
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America, formerly USGS, October 10, 2010

Lowndes County, Georgia

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Jodi Willis and her class of Second Grade students, who submitted the Xylophanes tersa caterpillar find in Lowndes County Georgia. It is great to see teachers making the extra effort to inspire and educate their students. Many thanks to the students, also, who reported the larva to their teacher. Hope they have success.

Jodi writes, October 7, 2010, "My name is Jodi and I teach second grade in South Georgia. Some of our students found a Tersa Sphinx caterpillar at the school today. We would love to see it go through all the stages and become a moth. The problem I have is that I do not know what to feed it, or what kind of habitat I need to keep it in to allow it to grow and thrive. Could you please help me. I saw some pictures of various stages online. Some of the caterpillars were green and some were brown. Ours is brown. The spots are very defined. I look forward to hearing from you soon."

I reply, "Here is URL for a larval thumbnail page for Escambia County, Florida. The larvae you are likely to encounter in your area of Georgia are probably pretty much the same.
Some food plants are listed with the tersa thumbnail, and additional ones can be seen by clicking on the tersa link to visit the species file. Also near top of the page listed above is a link to care of found larvae. The same procedures can be followed with your larva.

"Best of luck with your project. I am retired now, but taught school for 32 years.

"If you can send me a digital picture of your tersa caterpillar and let me know your Georgia county, I will create a similar page for you and the students."

Jodi writes, "Thank you so much for contacting me. I have put the larva in an airtight jar along with some food plants. He does not seem to be too interested in eating. I don't know if he just does not like what I've gotten for him or if he is about to pupate. I did find him burrowed under the dead grass that was in the container housing him. We used the dead grass because that is where he was found. I've tried 2 different kinds of food and he has not eaten anything. I do not see white spots, so hopefully we don't have a fungus or wasp eggs or whatever happens to them. He still wiggles when I touch him.

"We are located in Lowndes County, right on the Florida border. Still pretty warm here. Hopefully he will go through all the stages before winter.

"Thanks again for your time. Hopefully I'll be able to give my 2nd graders a science experience they will never forget."

I reply, "I suggest you remove the dead grass. In an airtight container, the decomposing grass will give off gases that might smother the larva. That is why, when it is ready to pupate, and it is based on where you found it, that I recommend in the article about care of found larvae that you put it in a pupation tub with just a paper towel, no foliage or grasses or anything else that will decompose.

"On Monday I will work on the website for Lowndes County.

"Larvae need very little oxygen at this time, and it should still be fine, but I recommend you remove the grasses."

Jodi clarifies, October 13, 2010, "Well, we are doing something right!! "Dottie" began to pupate last night. I guess that's why she would not eat. The kids were so excited. About how long will we have to wait before we see a moth? I have no idea how long each stage lasts. I would like to ask also that you include 3rd grade in our website. The teachers there are Mrs. Bice and Mrs. Reams. They are as excited about this as well and it was actually their class that found the caterpillar. Again, thanks again for your help. I will try to take a picture and get it to you so you can add those. Talk to you again soon."

I reply, "Congratulations. If you had found "Dottie" in June, I would have predicted the moth would emerge within two to three weeks of pupation, within as few as nine days if your weather was really warm and humid. If, in your area, you still have two months of warm weather, enough time for another brood, then you will likely see a moth within two to three weeks. Be sure to reread the article linked from top of this page about an emergence container so the moth can climb and hang when it first breaks forth from the pupal shell. This is very important so that the wings can inflate properly.

"Since you have found the caterpillar so late in the season, it is possible that this pupa will overwinter and not yield a moth until spring. In southern Florida and southern Louisiana there have been flights of Xylophanes tersa recorded as late as November, but you may be too far north for that to happen. The larvae have a remarkable ability to take cues from the environment (length of photo period, temperatures, possibly foodplant quality) to determine whether or not they will produce the enzyme to put them in a state of diapause (hibernation) during the cooler months.

If "Dottie" produced the overwintering enzyme, then she would probably not emerge until the natural photo period again begins to increase. It is also going to be hard to predict because the larva and pupa have been and are experiencing extra artificial light and warmth.

"Use a storage emergence container that will maintain a high relative humidity while you are waiting. You may or may not have a long wait."

Thirty-six Sphingidae species are listed for Georgia on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Lowndes County (No species are reported on U.S.G.S. as of October 10, 2010). It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the Sphingidae adult moths you are likely to encounter.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Lowndes County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth and its larvae are present or might be present.

Please note the above comments are not intended as a criticism of the USGS website. Their mandate is documented accuracy. My goal is to assist people in identifying what they are likely to find. The USGS website has proven to be a great resource in that undertaking, and I use it, sightings submitted by others, and James Tuttle's book to make interpolations.

A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website and/or in Lepidoptera of North America, #1. Distribution of Silkmoths (Saturniidae) and Hawkmoths (Sphingidae) of Eastern North America, 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 electronic image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

The night-blooming moon flower will attract many Sphingidae at dusk and into the night.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, WO, Pink-spotted hawkmoth,

This species is a strong migrant and adults nectar from deep-throated flowers including moonflower (Calonyction aculeatum), morning glory (Convolvulus), honey suckle (Lonicera) and petunia (Petunia species).

Ceratomia amyntor WO, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is brown with dark brown and white markings including a white costal area near the wing base, dark streaks along the veins, and a white spot in the cell. Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia catalpae WO, the Catalpa Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is yellowish brown with no white markings, but there are indistinct black lines and dashes. The cell spot is gray with a black outline. The larvae feed in large groups and are much more spectacular than the moths.
Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia undulosa WO, the Waved Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is pale brownish gray with wavy black and white lines and a black-outlined white cell spot. The upperside of the hindwing is gray with diffuse darker bands.

Dolba hyloeus WO, the Pawpaw Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is dark brown with a dusting of white scales. Some moths have patches of reddish or yellowish brown on the wings.

Isoparce cupressi WO, the Cypress or Baldcypress Sphinx

Isoparce cupressi, the rare Cypress Sphinx, flies in Cypress swamps in Georgia (specimen type locality), and from Maryland to Texas. It has been reported in Mexico. possibility

Lapara coniferarum WO, the Southern Pine Sphinx

The upperside is of the forewing is gray with two (sometimes one or three) black dashes near the wing center; other markings are usually diffuse. The upperside of the hindwing is a uniform brown-gray. If you've got pines, this species is likely present.

Manduca jasminearum WO, the Ash Sphinx

The upperside of forewing is gray to grayish brown with a black line running from the middle of the costa to the middle of the outer margin; the line may be broken near the margin. There is a splash of brown around the cell spot.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter Manduca quinquemaculata.

Manduca rustica WO, the Rustic Sphinx

Look for three large yellow spots on each side of the abdomen. The upperside of the forewing is yellowish brown to deep chocolate brown with a dusting of white scales and zigzagged black and white lines.

Manduca sexta WO, the Carolina Sphinx

If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered Manduca sexta in the larval stage.

Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Paratrea plebeja WO, the Plebeian Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is gray with indistinct black and white markings. There is a series of black dashes from the base to the tip, and a small white cell spot.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, the Walnut Sphinx

The adults are also highly variable; sometimes wings of an individual may be all one color or may have several colors, ranging from pale to dark brown, and may have a white or pink tinge. Patterns range from faint to pronounced. See the file for the female; she is different.

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx

Paonias astylus flies from March-September in Florida and from April-September in Louisiana. There is one brood northward from June-August. This appears to be an uncommon species.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

Named for the dull grey-blue spot (minus dark pupil) in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution in the eastern United States. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Wakulla County.

I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx

This moth is widely distributed and fairly common.

Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Enyo lugubris, the Mournful Sphinx, WO

The body and wings are dark brown. The forewing has a large black patch covering most of the outer half of the wing. There is a pale tan cell spot (dark inner pupil), and a fairly straight median line to the inside of the cell spot.

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, WO.

During the night adults nectar at flowers, including bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) and Asystasia gangetica beginning at dusk.

July and August are flight times in the southern states. adult stray

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris gracilis WO, the Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

This day-flying moth is less common and has not been recorded in Bibb County, but it may be present. unlikely

Hemaris thysbe WO, the Hummingbird Clearwing

It is not difficult to see why many gardeners would mistake an Hemaris thysbe moth for a small hummingbird as it hovers, sipping nectar from flowers through a long feeding tube.

Hemaris diffinis WO, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments before the tip.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx

Larvae get large and feed on grape vines and Virginia creeper.

Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha fasciatus WO, the Banded Sphinx
The upperside of the moth is dark pinkish brown. Each forewing has a lighter brown band along the costa, and sharp pinkish white bands and streaks. Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose) and other plants in the evening primrose family.

Eumorpha intermedia WO, the Intermediate Sphinx
The Intermediate Sphinx Moth, (Eumorpha intermedia), (Wing span: 3 9/16 - 3 7/8 inches (9 - 9.8 cm)), flies in lower austral and subtropical lowlands in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Texas.

Eumorpha pandorus WO, the Pandorus Sphinx

If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you probably have this species. I often get asked to identify larvae from areas not previously reported.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, the Nessus Sphinix

This day flier is widely distributed. If you have Virginia Creeper, you probably have the Nessus Sphinx.

Two bright, distinct, narrow yellow bands are often visible on the abdomen.

Darapsa choerilus WO, the Azalea Sphinx

The lower wings of this hawkmoth are a solid brownish-orange, matching the body colour.

You will often see this species listed as Darapsa pholus, especially in older literature.

Darapsa myron WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx

If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this species nearby. The lower wings are orange.

Darapsa versicolor WO, the Hydrangea Sphinx

If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you might have the Hydrangea Sphinx.

Deidamia inscriptum WO, the Lettered Sphinx

The moth's outer margin of the forewing is deeply scalloped. The upperside is light brown with dark brown markings. There is a small black and white spot near the tip. Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.

Hyles lineata WO, the White-lined Sphinx

This species has strong migrating tendancies from much further south. There are records from New Hampshire and Maine.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, the Abbott's Sphinx

This moth is very much under reported across the United States. It is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections. Grape is a popular larval host.

Xylophanes tersa JW, the Tersa Sphinx

This moth is much more common to the south. It is a strong migrant, however, and is probably well established in Bibb County.

Xylophanes tersa larva, October 7, 2010, Jodi Willis; Second Grade class; Mrs. Bice and Mrs. Reams; Third Grade class

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