Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, July 28, 2009
Will County, Illinois
Agrius cingulata, Will County, October 8, 2007, courtesy of
This page is inspired by and dedicated to William
Bennett and his family. Will sent me the Agrius cingulata images,
top and bottom of this page.
slight digital repair to right side of thorax by Bill Oehlke.
Will writes, "My family and I just came across the largest
moth that we have ever seen - at least live and in person.
"Luckily, I did have my digital camera with me at
the time, so I snapped a bunch of photos. After
looking at the identification guides, I am positive that it
is a Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth.
"We live in Plainfield, Illinois (suburb of
Chicago), and I was just wondering if this would be rare
for this species of moth to be here?
"This isn't a native - or even close - species,
is it? If not, was it probably migrating, or perhaps
somehow found its way (as an invasive species type of
I wrote back: "William,
I am getting sightings of them all over eastern U.S.
now from Carolinas, Kentucky, New York, Illinois, etc. Must be a fall
migration in full swing after a good growing season further south.
Warm weather is probably also playing a part. Thanks for thinking of
Will responded: "We actually spotted the moth indoors
in the viewing area of the local horse barn on the wooden floor. It
must have flown in. So it wouldn't get
stepped on, we allowed it to climb on a stick and
moved it outdoors.
"We are in Will County.
"We also have a couple of Wooly Bear caterpillars that
we are trying to take care of over the fall and winter
- my daughter is just fascinated.
"And, we found a caterpillar that I couldn't find in
any Illinois caterpillar listings, which changed into
a cocoon/pupa already after 1 day. I'm not sure if
that will make it though. The closest type I found was
possibly a Sphingidae.
"Thanks for the reply."
Special thanks also to Don Haberkamp who sends this beautiful image of Hemaris thysbe from New Lenox,
July 27, 2009.
Hemaris thysbe, New Lenox, Will County, Illinois, July 27, 2009, courtesy of Don Haberkamp.
Joseph Paleczny sends this beautiful image of Hemaris thysbe from Plainfield Township near intersection of
Theodore and Drauden, 7:35pm, July 12, 2010.
Hemaris thysbe, Plainfield Township, Will County, Illinois,
July 12, 2010, courtesy of Joseph Paleczny.
Forty-two Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for Illinois.
Not all of the species are reported (eight by USGS
as of October 2007)
in Will County in northeastern Illinois. I have
added some species which I feel may be present (at least
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 Cook 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
WB 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).
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
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.
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.
generally a more southerly species
The upperside of the forewing is pale brownish gray with wavy black
and white lines and a black-outlined white cell spot.
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
Larve are not limited to pawpaw.
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.
This large bodied moth flies in tobacco fields and vegetable gardens
(potatoes, tomatoes) and wherever host plants are found.
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.
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, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere,
but it might possibly be present in Cook County.
Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry
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.
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.
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.
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.
the Canadian Sphinx or
The upperside of the forewing is yellowish gray in males and pale
gray with a faint yellow tint in females. In both sexes, the dark
border on the outer margin widens as it approaches the inner margin.
If you have blueberries in the woods, then you might have the
Poecila Sphinx. They are pretty common here on Prince Edward Island,
but don't fly too far south of Massachusetts, being replaced by
Sphinx gordius in Connecticut.
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.
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.
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.
the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx,
This moth has a large, heavy body, and
females can be remarkably plump.
This moth is widely distributed and fairly common, and it is recorded
Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.
The body is dark brown with a wide white stripe across the abdomen.
The wings are dark brown. It is very similar to above species, but the
upperside of the hindwing has
pale patches along the costa and inner margin.
WO, the Ello Sphinx
The abdomen has very distinct gray and black bands. The female's
forewing upperside is pale gray with a few dark dots near the outer
margin. The male's forewing upperside is dark gray and brown with
a black band running from the base to the tip.
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.
See Hemaris comparison
to help distinguish the next three species.
USGS, 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.
Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing
Hemaris gracilis is distinguished from similar species by a pair of
red-brown bands on the undersides of the thorax, which varies from
green to yellow-green dorsally and sometimes brown with white
Hemaris thysbe, New Lenox, July 27, 2009, Don Haberkamp.
USGS/DH/JP, the Hummingbird Clearwing
This interesting day flier is confirmed for Will County, and is likely common.
They are widely distributed in the east from P.E.I. to Florida.
Hemaris thysbe, Plainfield Township, July 12, 2010, Joseph Paleczny.
This moth is not confirmed for Will County. 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.
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.
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.
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.
WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the
This moth is recorded on the U.S.G.S. site for Cook County,
and it is probably common.
It is widely reported as far north as southern Maine. If you have the
foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this
If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you may have the
probably is uncommon.
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.
WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth
or Gallium Sphinx
This species is not confirmed in Will County, but I think it might be present.
Some years I see them on P.E.I., some years, I do not.
USGS, the White-lined Sphinx
Adults usually fly at dusk, during the night, and at dawn, but they
also fly during the day over a wide variety of open habitats
including deserts, suburbs, and gardens.
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.
Agrius cingulata, Will County, October 8, 2007, courtesy of William Bennett.
When William Bennett sent the images top and bottom of this page, he
mentioned he felt the moth might have been injured due to some
"fur/hair" removal from the dorsal thorax. I did some digital repair,
masking that imperfection in the image above. Will also mentioned
the moth was found on the floor of the barn.
In the image above there is another indication of injury. The coiled
proboscis, or feeding tube, which can be uncoiled/extended
to a length of many inches to reach the nectar in deep
throated flowers, is not in its usual resting position. Normally the coil
is scarcely visible, but remains hidden between tufts of fur/hair on
the underside of the thorax.
Possibly this moth was attacked in its evening flight by an owl or bat,
and was then dropped to the barn floor.
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.
Eggs of many North American species are offered during the spring and summer. Occasionally
summer Actias luna and summer Antheraea polyphemus cocoons are available. Shipping to US destinations is done
from with in the US.
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