Created/dedicated as per personal communication with LKC, September 3, 2010
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September, 2010
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America website, formerly USGS, September 3, 2010

Barnstable County


Hemaris thysbe, Barnstable, Barnstable County, Massachusetts,
September 2, 2010, courtesy of LKC.

This page is dedicated to LKC (LKC) from Barnstable, Massachusetts. LK sends me the image of Hemaris thysbe, top of the page.

LK writes, "I saw this beautiful critter in my garden feeding on the white phlox yesterday September 2, 2010. I am located in Barnstable on Cape Cod. I am not sure of which species it is, so if you can identify it that would be great. I have seen these on Cape Cod only rarely over the last 30 years, so it was a special event for me."

Forty-one Sphingidae species are listed for Massachusetts on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Barnstable (fourteen are reported on U.S.G.S. as of September 3, 2010). It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the moths you are likely to encounter.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in your county, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present. A USGS indicates the moth is reported in the USGS 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.

Please also send your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

Visit Barnstable County Sphingidae Larvae: Caterpillars; Hornworms

Visit Massachusetts Catocala: Underwing Moths

If you are travelling, you can find active Sphingidae checklists for all countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbbean via the links at North, Central, South American Sphingidae checklists

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata USGS stray

This species is enountered in Dukes County as a stray from much further south.
The moth is a very strong flier and is frequently encountered far north of its usual range.

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

This moth is not officially recorded in Barnstable, but it probably flies throughout the state.
Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia catalpae WO, the Catalpa Sphinx

This is generally a more southerly species, but it may be present in Dukes County near Catalpa Trees. I saw them in great numbers in New Jersey.

The larvae feed in large groups and are much more spectacular than the moths.
Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia undulosa USGS, the Waved Sphinx

This moth is not recorded in Dukes County, but it has been observed to the north, west and south.
It is named for the wavy lines on the forewings.

Dolba hyloeus USGS, the Pawpaw Sphinx

This moth is recorded in Barnstable and it has been taken to the north, west and south. Larve are not limited to pawpaw.

Lapara bombycoides USGS, the Northern Pine Sphinx

Reported from Dukes, it is widely reported in Massachusetts and along the coast in New Hamshire and Vermont. This is another one we have on P.E.I.

Lapara coniferarum USGS, the Southern Pine Sphinx

This species is officially reported from Dukes and it is widely reported in Massachusetts and along the coast in New Hamshire and Vermont. If you've got pines, this species is likely present.

Lintneria eremitus USGS, the Hermit Sphinx

This species is present in Dukes County.

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.

Manduca jasminearum WO, possible stray the Ash Sphinx

This species is not recorded in Barnstable County and usually is not found north of Connecticut.

This moth is a strong flier and may occasionally stray into Massachusetts.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This species is not recorded in Barnstable County, but I suspect if you grow tomatoes you have encountered it.

Manduca sexta WO, the Carolina Sphinx

This species is not officially recorded in Barnstable County. However, if you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Paratrea plebeja WO, the Plebian Sphinx

This species is recorded in Dukes County, but probably would not be common, as this would be the northernmost part of range.
The upperside of the forewing is gray with indistinct black and white markings.

Sphinx canadensis WO, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere, but it might be present in Barnstable County as it is reported from further west.

Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry (Vaccinium).

Sphinx chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx

This species is not officially recorded from Barnstable County. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum USGS, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

This species is present in Barnstable County. We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see the other Sphingidae.

Sphinx gordius USGS, the Apple Sphinx

This species is present in Barnstable County.
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 USGS, the Laurel Sphinx

This species is reported in Barnstable County. I have taken them on P.E.I., Canada, and reared them on lilac.

At rest the hindwings are usually completely covered.

Sphinx luscitiosa WO, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx: Upperside of fw is yellowish gray in males and pale gray with faint yellow tint in females. Dark border on outer margin widens as it approaches inner margin. Upperside of hw is deep yellow in males, pale yellow in females; both with wide black border.

Sphinx poecila WO, maybe, the Poecila Sphinx

If you have blueberries in the woods, then you probably 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.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, the Walnut Sphinx

This is the first Sphinx species I reared as a boy in New Jersey.
See the file for the female; she is different.

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

This moth is not officially reported from Dukes County, but it may be present.

They are common on Prince Edward Island.

Paonias astylus USGS, the Huckleberry Sphinx

It is widely distributed in Massachusetts, but is a relatively uncommon species.
Only rarely are they seen in Maine. I never saw one in New Jersey.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

Named for the dull grey-blue spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Barnstable County.

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 Barnstable County.

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

Smerinthus cerisyi WO, possibly, the Cerisyi's Sphinx

is probably at near its southern limit of the eastern range for this species. I never saw one in New Jersey. At my home in Montague, P.E.I., Canada, they are quite common.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx

This moth is widely distributed and fairly common and has been recorded in Barnstable County.

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

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thysbe LKC, the Hummingbird Clearwing

This interesting day flier is now confirmed for Barnstable.

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

Hemaris thysbe, Barnstable, September 2, 2010, LKC

Hemaris gracilis WO, The Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

This day flier is not commonly reported, but is probably present in Barnstable.

Hemaris diffinis WO, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

This moth is widely distributed and often reported north, west and south of Dukes (not yet reported for Dukes).

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS, the Achemon Sphinx

This moth is reported for barnstable, and it is fairly often reported along the coast from southern New Jersey to central Maine.
Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

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 where they have not previously been reported.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO , the Nessus Sphinix

This day flier is widely distributed although not officially recorded in Dukes County. If you have Virginia Creeper, you probably have the Nessus Sphinx.
Two bright, distinct, narrow yellow bands are often visible on the abdomen.

Cautethia grotei WO, possible unlikely stray, Grote's Sphinix

The upperside of the forewing is pale silvery gray with black markings. The upperside of the hindwing is deep yellow-orange with a black border that covers less than half the wing. rare

Darapsa choerilus USGS , 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.

It is reported on USGS for Dukes.

Darapsa myron USGS, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx
This moth is recorded on the USGS site for Dukes County.
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 versicolor USGS, the Hydrangea Sphinx

If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you may have the Hydrnagea Sphinx.

It has not been widely reported, however, and probably is uncommon.

Deidamia inscriptum WO , the Lettered Sphinx

This species has not been recorded in Barnstable County, but it has been reported in nearby Massachusetts counties and may be present.

It is generally absent to the north so would probably be uncommon.

Hyles gallii WO , the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is reported in nearby counties.

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

Hyles lineata WO , the White-lined Sphinx

This species is not officially reported from Barnstable County. It is a strong migrator from the south, and there are records from the west and to the north.

Sphecodina abbottii WO , the Abbott's Sphinx

This moth is very much under reported. It is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections.

Grape is a popular larval host.

Xylophanes tersa USGS, probably as a non-resident stray, the Tersa Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is pale brown with lavender-gray at the base and has dark brown lengthwise lines throughout. The upperside of the hindwing is dark brown with a band of whitish, wedge-shaped marks.

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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