Created and dedicated as per personal communication with Dave Small, May 2006
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, June 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Rick Riccitelli (Windy Hill Farm, Stockbridge, September 2, 2012); September 13, 2012
Updated as per personal communication with Karl Piela (thysbe, diffinis, gracilis, floridensis, all nectaring on swamp azalea; Florida, June 8, 2012); July 3, 2014

Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Hyles gallii, "Stony Ledge" on Mount Greylock, Williamstown, Berkshire County,
Massachusetts,May 28, 2006, courtesy of Dave Small.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Dave Small who sent the sighting/image of Hyles gallii from Williamstown, May 28, 2006.

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 Berkshire County (twenty-one species are reported on U.S.G.S. as of June 19, 2008). 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 or might be present.

A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported 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 forward sightings to BAMONA, formerly USGS, an excellent online resource.

Many thanks to Betsy Higgins for the following image.

Paonias myops, Mount Greylock, Berkshire County, Massachusetts,
July 12, 2008, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

Many thanks to Rick Riccitelli for this beautiful image of Hemaris diffinis.

Hemaris diffinis, Windy Hill Farm, Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts,
September 2, 2012, courtesy of Rick Riccitelli.

Many thanks to Karl Piela who sends the following report: Hemaris gracilis......on Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum). Seen in Florida, Massachusetts on a sunny day on June 8, 2014. Along with this species and feeding on the same shrub species were also seen.....Hemaris diffinis, Hemaris thysbe and Amphion floridensis.

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

Visit Berkshire County Sphingidae Larvae: Caterpillars; Hornworms

Visit Massachusetts Catocala: Underwing Moths

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

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia amyntor USGS, 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. The upperside of the hindwing is light brown and has a dark brown band along the outer margin.

Ceratomia catalpae WO, the Catalpa Sphinx: This is generally a more southerly species, but it has been recorded in Essex County and might be present in Berkshire County. 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. Questionable!

Ceratomia undulosa WO, Waved Sphinx: Forewing pale brownish gray with wavy black and white lines, black-outlined white cell spot. Hindwing gray with diffuse darker bands. Some individuals very dark, almost black, and others are light yellowish brown.

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. Larvae are not limited to pawpaw.

Lapara bombycoides USGS, Northern Pine Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is gray with heavy black bands. The upperside of the hindwing is brownish gray with no markings. The underside is rather plain

Lapara coniferarum USGS, Southern Pine Sphinx: FW gray with two (sometimes one or three) black dashes near wing center; other markings are usually diffuse. HW uniform brown-gray. Lacks more sharply contrasting black markings of fresh L. bombycoides. Extensive reddish brown patch in median area near fw inner margin.

Lintneria eremitus WO, the Hermit Sphinx:

This species is probably present in Berkshire 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 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. The upperside of the hindwing is mostly black, with gray at the lower margin.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This species is not recorded in Berkshire, but, if you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Manduca sexta WO, the Carolina Sphinx

This species is not officially recorded in Berkshire, but if you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Sphinx canadensis USGS, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, The absence of the white spot on each forewing and the more brownish coloration serve to separate canadensis from poecilus. The hindwing fringe also tends to be white on poecilus and checkered brownish on canadensis. Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry (Vaccinium).

Sphinx chersis USGS, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx:

This species is not officially recorded, but I suspect it is present. 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, the Apple Sphinx:

This species is probably present in Berkshire 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: 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 luscitiosa USGS, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx: FW upperside is yellowish gray in males; pale gray with yellow tint in females. Dark border on outer margin widens as it approaches inner margin. HW upperside is deep yellow in males, pale yellow in females; both with wide black border.

Sphinx poecila USGS, 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 USGS, the Walnut Sphinx: Adults are highly variable; sometimes wings may be all one color or may have several colors, ranging from pale to dark brown, and may have white or pink tinge. Patterns range from faint to pronounced. This is the first Sphinx species I reared as a boy in New Jersey. Female is different.

Pachysphinx modesta USGS the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx: This moth has a large, heavy body, and females can be remarkably plump. Hindwings are often striking in contrast to more sombre upperwings.

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx: It is recorded for northeastern Massachusetts and western Connecticut so may be present in Bershire. It would be more common in southeastern Massachusetts and is a relatively uncommon species.

Paonias excaecata USGS the Blinded Sphinx: Named for the dull grey-blue spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Berkshire County.

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

Paonias myops USGS/BH, the Small-eyed Sphinx: Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Berkshire County.

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

Paonias myops, Mt. Graylock, July 12, 2008, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, the Cerisyi's Sphinx: At my home in Montague, P.E.I., Canada, they are quite common and are very easy to rear. Lower half of light coloured, forewing apical "c" does not return to outer margin in cerisy, but does in jamaicensis.

Smerinthus jamaicensis USGS, the Twin-spotted Sphinx: Jamaicensis closely resembles cerisyi, but jamaicensis is much smaller with larger blue patches on more vibrant and deeper purple in the lower wings. Look for dark half moon, inwardly lined with white at the fw apex.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe WO/KP, 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 thysbe, Florida, nectaring on swamp azalea, June 8, 2014, Karl Piela

Hemaris gracilis WO/KP Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing: Gracilis is distinguished from similar species by pair of red-brown bands on sides of thorax, varying from green to yellow-green dorsally and sometimes brown with white below. Abdomen is red. Wings are transparent with reddish brown borders.

Hemaris gracilis, Florida, nectaring on swamp azalea, June 8, 2014, Karl Piela

Hemaris diffinis USGS/RR/KP the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

Note black on abdomen.

Hemaris diffinis, Windy Hill Farm, Stockbridge, September 2, 2012, Rick Riccitelli.
Hemaris diffinis, Florida, nectaring on swamp azalea, June 8, 2014, Karl Piela

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx: This moth is not officially reported for Berkshire, but 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. It is confirmed in Worcester Co. to the east.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO/KP, the Nessus Sphinix: 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, Florida, nectaring on swamp azalea, June 8, 2014, Karl Piela

Darapsa choerilus USGS, 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 USGS, Virginia Creeper Sphinx; Grapevine Sphinx: FW dark brown to pale yellowish gray, with an olive tint (often quite green). On the costal margin there is a dark rectangular patch, although this may be reduced or absent. HW upperside pale orange.

Darapsa versicolor USGS, the Hydrangea Sphinx

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

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

Deidamia inscriptum USGS, the Lettered Sphinx: Fw outer margin deeply scalloped. 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.

Hyles gallii USGS/DS, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx: Note thick, irregular, creamy transverse line on forewings and the absence of thin white lines on forewings and thorax.

Hyles gallii, May 28, 2006, courtesy of Dave Small.

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx: Fw dark olive brown with paler brown along costa and outer margin, narrow tan band running from wing tip to base, and white streaks along the veins. Hw black with reddish pink median band.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, Abbott's Sphinx: Mimic bumblebees and make a buzzing sound when feeding. The wing margins are scalloped. The upperside of the forewing is dark brown with light brown bands and markings. The upperside of the hindwing is yellow with a wide black outer margin.

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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