Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, January 14, 2011
Updated as per personal communication with Tom Jantscher, January 14, 2011; updated March 13, 2012; December 19, 2012; January 24, 2014

Linn County, northeastern Iowa

Hyles lineata, Marshalltown, Iowa, 6:00 pm, September 23, 2006, courtesy of John Jude.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Tom Jantscher who has sent me extensive collecting data for Linn County. Tom kept excellent and extensive records on his electronic spread sheets. Such record keeping helps predict/anticipate flights in subsequent years.

The most accurate picture of voltanism, flight season, flight (clock) time, etc., comes from keeping such records over many years.

Some species are noted for having cyclical seasons whereby they may seem absent for a couple of years, and then rebound heartily, only to disappear again a few years later.

Some species are less likely to respond to lights or specific types of lights; others may be uncommon due to lack of natural host plants or heavy parasite, predator populations.

In March of 2012 Tom sent me images and data for his collecting in 2011. I have added the info and images (via the links) below.

Tom sent many beautiful images of his encounters in 2013, including this beautiful shot of a fall visitor.

Eumorpha fasciatus Noel Ridge Park, Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa,
October 4, 2013, courtesy of Thomas Jantscher

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 Linn County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that these moths are present.

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:

Agrius cingulata, TJ Pink-spotted hawkmoth, fall migrant: 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).

Agrius cingulata, September 28, 2010, October 12, 2013; Tom Jantscher

Ceratomia amyntor TJ, 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 amyntor, June 9; July 4, 2010, Tom Jantscher

Ceratomia catalpae TJ, 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 and the upperside of the hindwing is yellowish brown with obscure lines.
Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia catalpae, July 7, 18, 2010, Tom Jantscher

Ceratomia hageni WO, Hagen's Sphinx or Osage Orange Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is gray with a green tint and has dark indistinct wavy lines, and pale gray patches at the wing tip and along the costa.

Ceratomia undulosa TJ, 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.

Ceratomia undulosa, May 27; June 9, 10, 13, 21, 30; July 4, 18, 21; Tom Jantscher

Lintneria eremitus TJ, the Hermit Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is gray-brown with wavy lines, black dashes, and one or two small white spots near the center of the costa.

Lintneria eremitus June 19; July 28-20, August 5, 11; Tom Jantscher
Lintneria eremitus, nectaring at common milkweed and bouncing bet, Rock Island Preserve, June 28; July 7, 2011, Tom Jantscher; July 8, 2012, Hitaga Sand Ridge prairie Preserve, TJ
2012: July 8, 22; August 3; Thomas Jantscher

Manduca quinquemaculatus TJ, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This large bodied moth flies in tobacco fields and vegetable gardens (potatoes, tomatoes) and wherever host plants are found.

Manduca quinquemaculatus, October 10, 2010 only in Story County so far; Tom Jantscher
Manduca quinquemaculatus, nectaring at petunia, Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids, Linn Co., September 4, 2011; Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, June 27, 2012 Tom Jantscher.
2012: June: 24, 27; July 29; 2013: September 30; Thomas Jantscher

Manduca sexta TJ, the Carolina Sphinx

The upperside of the hindwing is banded with black and white and has two black zigzag median lines that are very close together with hardly any white showing between them
Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Manduca sexta July 12, 18, August 1, 14, 19, 25, 28; Tom Jantscher
Manduca sexta, nectaring at bouncing bet, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Preserve, September 2, 2011; June 24, 2012; Tom Jantscher.
2012: June: 10, 15, 19, 24, 27, 29; July 8, 15, 22, 29; August 5, 15, 22, 31; Thomas Jantscher

2013: July 8, 12, 19, 21; August 18; October 7; Thomas Jantscher

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.

Sphinx canadensis WO, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere, but it might possibly be present in Linn County.
Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry (Vaccinium).

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 of which reaches the wing tip.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest. We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see the other Sphingidae.

Sphinx gordius WO, very questionable in Iowa, the Apple Sphinx

Colouration and markings are highly variable from one specimen to another. The fringes on forewing are mostly black with some white; those on the hindwing are mostly white with a few black patches.

Sphinx kalmiae TJ, the Laurel Sphinx

The lower forewings are predominantly brownish-yellow with a fairly wide dark bar along the inner margin. At rest the wings hug the body, giving the moth a long slender look.

Sphinx kalmiae, July 23; August 5, 2010; Tom Jantscher
Sphinx kalmiae nectaring at bouncing bet, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, August 3, 2011;
nectaring at bouncing bet, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Preserve, August 12, 12011.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis TJ, 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.
See the file for the female; she is different.

Amorpha juglandis, May 25, June 12; June 29, 2013 (larvae), Tom Jantscher

Paonias excaecata TJ, the Blinded Sphinx,
The outer margin of the forewing is quite wavy. There is a dark cell spot and a dark oblique line mid wing from the costa almost to the inner margin. Basic ground colour is pinkish brown.
Flight would be June-July.

Paonias excaecata, June 30, July 2, 8, 2010, Tom Jantscher

Paonias myops TJ, the Small-eyed Sphinx

This small species is probably widespread and common. This species ranges across North America.

The hindwings have a small blue eyespot ringed with black on a yellow background.

Paonias myops, July 11, 16-17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 31; August 1, 2010, Tom Jantscher
Paonias myops, Rock Island Preserve, June 12, 2011, Tom Jantscher

Pachysphinx modesta WO/TJ, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx,

This moth has a large, heavy body, and females can be remarkably plump.

Pachysphinx modesta female, at light at Xavier High School, July 19, 2011, Tom Jantcher

Smerinthus cerisyi WO, questionable in Linn County, 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. Questionable, generally more northerly species

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx
This moth is widely distributed and fairly common, and it is expected in Linn.
Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

Aellopos titan stray (TJ), the Titan Sphinx.
The body is dark brown with a wide white stripe across the abdomen. The wings are dark brown. The upperside of the hindwing has pale patches along the costa and inner margin. John has seen them nectaring on his butterfly bush in September of 2005 and 2006.

Aellopos titan, August 3, 2012, Tom Jantscher

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, stray; TJ
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.

Erinnyis obscura, August 31, 2012; October 1, 2013; Thomas Jantscher

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next two species.

Hemaris diffinis TJ, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee 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 diffinis, May 9; June 19; July 17, 31; Tom Jantscher
July 17, Buchanon County; Mark Jantscher

Hemaris thysbe TJ, the Hummingbird Clearwing
This interesting day flier is not confirmed for Marshall.

They are widely distributed in the east from P.E.I. to Florida.

Hemaris thysbe, August 27, Tom Jantscher
Lee County: July 10, September 12, Tom Jantscher

Philampelini Tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO/TJ, the Achemon Sphinx
I suspect it is present. It is fairly often reported along the east coast from southern New Jersey to central Maine.
Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha achemon: 2012: June: 15, 24, 29; July 8; Thomas Jantscher
Eumorpha achemon, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Reserve, July 8, 2010, Thomas Jantscher
2013: June 30; July 8, 12, 19, Thomas Jantscher.

Eumorpha fasciatus fall migrant; TJ, Banded Sphinx
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 fasciatus, October 3, 2012: October 3, 4, 11, 2013; Thomas Jantscher

Eumorpha pandorus TJ, 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 where they have not previously been reported.

Eumorpha pandorus, July 12, 16, Tom Jantscher
Eumorpha pandorus, nectaring at bouncing bet, Rock Island Preserve, July 17, 2011, Tom Jantscher
Eumorpha pandorus, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Reserve, June 15, 2012, Thomas Jantscher.
2012: June 15, 19, 24, 27, 29; July 6, 8, 15, 22, 29; August 5, 15; Thomas Jantscher
2013: July 8, 12, 19, 21; August 18; Thomas Jantscher

Macroglossini Tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO/TJ, 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.

Amphion floridensis: 2012: June 17, Thomas Jantscher

Darapsa choerilus WO/TJ, the Azalea Sphinx

They are common in New Jersey and common here on Prince Edward Island.

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

Darapsa choerilus larva, August 13-14, 2013; Thomas Jantscher

Darapsa myron TJ, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx
It is widely reported as far north as southern Maine. If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this species nearby.

Darapsa myron, June 19, July 23, 31; August 3, 2010; Tom Jantscher

Deidamia inscriptum TJ, 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. The upperside of the hindwing is orange-brown with a dark brown outer margin and median line.

Deidamia inscriptum, May 20, 2010; Tom Jantscher

Hyles gallii WO, possibly, but generally more northwesterly, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

Some years I see them on P.E.I., some years, I do not.

Hyles lineata TJ; very common, White-lined Sphinx: Adults usually fly at dusk, at night, at dawn, but they also fly during the day over a wide variety of open habitats including deserts, suburbs, gardens.

Hyles lineata, May 26, June 26, 30, July 7-8, 12, 14-18, 22-24, 28-29, 31; August 1, 3-6, 8, 10-11, 13-14, 19, 25-29, 31; September 11-12, 27-30; October 1-4, 6-8, 10; Tom Jantscher
Hyles lineata, nectaring at bouncing bet, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Preserve, October 8, 2011, Tom Jantscher;
nectaring at petunia, Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids, October 9, 2011, Tom Jantscher; Hitaga SRPP, June 10, 2012, TJ; Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids, September 25, 2012, TJ

2012-2013: June 10, 15, 19, 24, 27; July 6, 8, 15, 19, 21, 22, 29; August 3, 5, 10, 15, 18, 22, 24, 25, 30, 31; September 25, 30; October 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12; Thomas Jantscher

Sphecodina abbottii WO, the Abbott's Sphinx
This moth is very much under reported on USGS. It is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections.

Grape is a popular larval host.

Xylophanes tersa TJ, the Tersa Sphinx
The upperside of the forewing is pale brown with lavender-gray at the base and has dark brown lengthwise lines throughout.

Xylophanes tersa, July 31; August 1, 3-6, 8, 10-11, 14, 27, 29, 31; Tom Jantscher
Xylophanes tersa, nectaring at bouncing bet, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Preserve, September 9, 2011, Tom Jantscher.
2012: June 15; August 3, 24; Thomas Jantscher

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Please send sightings/images to Bill. I will do my best to respond to requests for identification help.