Inspired by personal communication with Sharon Stichter and Sissy ffolliot, August 2008
Dedicated to Matthew D. Arey, August 2008
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 2008
Updated via personal communication wth Kim Smith
Updated as per personal communication with Sissy ffolliott, August 25, 2013; June 13, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Sissy ffolliott (Amorpha juglandis, June 11, 2017); June 12, 2017

Essex County Sphingidae


Amorpha juglandis, Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts,
August 2008, courtesy of Sissy ffolliott, via Sharon Stichter.

This page, inspired by Sharon Stichter, is dedicated to Matthew D. Arey (MDA) from Boxford, Massachusetts. Matthew has been recording Sphingidae sightings since 1979.

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 Essex (only two are reported on U.S.G.S.). 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. An * 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.

Eumorpha achemon, Rockport, Essex County, Massachusetts,
courtesy of Kim Smith.

Hyles lineata, Ipswich, August 22, 2013,
courtesy of Sissy B. Ffolliott.

Eumorpha pandorus, Ipswich, August 10, 2016,
courtesy of Sissy B. Ffolliott.

Amorpha juglandis female, Ipswich, June 11, 2017,
courtesy of Sissy B. Ffolliott.

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

Visit Essex 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:

Agrius cingulata MDA stray: Enountered in Essex County (Topsfield, August 30, 1994) as a stray from much further south. Very strong flier and is frequently encountered far north of its usual range.

Ceratomia amyntor MDA, Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx: Officially recorded in Essex (May and July), and it has been taken in eastern Maine and eastern New Hampshire and in much of Connecticut. Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia catalpae MDA, the Catalpa Sphinx: This is generally a more southerly species, but it has been recorded in Boxford, June 27, 1998. 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 MDA, Waved Sphinx: Recorded in Essex (Boxford July 8, 2001, May 21, 2004 and Topsfield July 18, 1995) and has been observed to the north, west and south. It is named for the wavy lines on forewings.

Dolba hyloeus MDA, Pawpaw Sphinx: This moth is recorded in Essex (Boxford June 23, 1999; June 12, 2002) it has been taken to the north, west and south. Larve are not limited to pawpaw.

Lapara bombycoides MDA, Northern Pine Sphinx: Reported from Essex (Topsfield and Boxford, July), 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 WO, Southern Pine Sphinx: Not officially reported from Essex, but widely reported in Massachusetts and along coast in New Hamshire and Vermont. If you've got pines, this species might be present. northeastern range limit.

Lintneria eremitus WO, 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.

Manduca jasminearum MDA the Ash Sphinx: Recorded in Essex (Boxford, June 17, 1997). This moth usually is not found north of Connecticut. Matthew's sighting in Boxford is unusual, but this moth is a strong flier.

Manduca quinquemaculatus MDA Five-spotted Hawkmoth: Recorded in Essex (Boxford and Danvers, August-September). I suspect if you grow tomatoes you have encountered it.

Manduca sexta MDA, the Carolina Sphinx: This species is recorded in Essex (Boxford, June and August). If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Sphinx canadensis WO, Sphinx canadensis, Canadian Sphinx: Absence of white spot on forewing; more brownish coloration separates S. canadensis from S. poecilus. Hindwing fringe also tends to be white on poecilus; checkered brownish on canadensis.

Sphinx chersis MDA, Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: Probably still present (Boxford, 1979) but may not be common. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum MDA, Wild Cherry Sphinx: Present: taken in Middleton and Boxford in May/June and August. We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see other Sphingidae.

Sphinx gordius WO, 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 MDA, Laurel Sphinx: Reported in Essex (Boxford and Topsfield, June). I have taken them on P.E.I., Canada, and reared them on lilac. At rest the hindwings are usually completely covered.

Sphinx luscitiosa MDA, Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx: Reported from Essex (Boxford, June 1999); it flies to the south and west in Massachusetts and can be fairly common in New Hampshire/Maine.

Sphinx poecila MDA, Poecila Sphinx: If you have blueberries in woods, then you probably have Poecila Sphinx. 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 MDA/Cf, Walnut Sphinx: Fairly widely reported to north, west and south of Essex (Boxford and Topsfield, July and August). This is the first Sphinx species I reared as a boy in New Jersey. See the file for the female; she is different.

Amorpha juglandis, Ipswich, August, Sissy ffolliott.
Amorpha juglandis, Ipswich, June 11, 2017, Sissy Ffolliott.

Pachysphinx modesta WO, Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx: This moth is found to the north, west and south of Essex so it is probably present there too.: They are common on Prince Edward Island.

Paonias astylus MDA/SOS, Huckleberry Sphinx: Matthew has two sightings for Essex (June 1999, July 1997). More common in southern Massachusetts and is a relatively uncommon species. Only rarely are they seen in Maine. I never saw one in New Jersey.

Paonias astylus male, June 9, 2009, courtesy of Susan Oleszko-Szuts, spotted by Jason Lacroix.

Paonias excaecata MDA, Blinded Sphinx: Named for the dull grey-blue spot in hindwing; has wide distribution; probably common in Essex (Boxford, Salem, Topsfield; July). I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island; reported as far south as Florida.

Paonias myops MDA, Small-eyed Sphinx: Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Essex (Boxford, North Andover; June-July). I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Smerinthus cerisyi MDA, Cerisyi's Sphinx: Essex (Methuen, September 3, 1998) is probably the 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 MDA, Twin-spotted Sphinx: This moth is widely distributed and fairly common so I suspect it is in Essex (Boxford, May 31 - August 22). Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thysbe MDA, Hummingbird Clearwing: This interesting day flier is confirmed for Essex (Boxford, Danvers, Topsfield; June and August. They are widely distributed in the east from P.E.I. to Florida.

Hemaris thysbe (12 +), loving that Purple Loosestrife, July 27, 2006, Old Town Hill in Newbury; August 10, 2006, Danvers, Matthew D. Arey
Hemaris thysbe, Weir Hill, North Andover, June 2, 2009, Howard Hoople

Hemaris gracilis MDA, The Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

This day flier is not commonly reported, but is present in Essex (Boxford, September 7, 2001).

Hemaris diffinis MDA, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

This moth is widely distributed and often reported north, west and south of Essex (Boxford, June-July).

Hemaris diffinis, June 7, 2007, Newbury (Old Town Hill), Matthew Arey

All three of the Massachusetts Hemaris species are day fliers and can easily be confused. Look for a definite bumblebee appearance to the abdomen of Hemaris diffinis with a black area, followed by wide yellow bands and a dark abdominal tip. The dark outer margins on all wings are greatly reduced, especially on the hindwings, compared to the other species.

Hemaris thysbe and Hemaris gracilis are more dificult to distinguish. H. thysbe is slightly larger, but the key is the irregular appearance of the inner side of the forewing outer margin burgundy scales. In H. gracilis the inner side of the outer margin is smooth.

If you are lucky enough to view the undersides, just below the wing junctures H. gracilis has dark bars, while H. thysbe is paler, without the bars.

H. diffinis has black legs, H. gracilis has reddish legs and H. thysbe has beige-white legs.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon MDA, Achemon Sphinx: Reported for Essex (Boxford, June 18, 1997); fairly often reported along coast from southern New Jersey to central Maine. Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha fasciatus MDA, Banded Sphinx: Very strong flier, often reported far north of its normal range. It would be a rare stray to Essex (Boxford, July 9, 1997),

Eumorpha pandorus MDA/SBF, 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. Topsfield, August 21, 1995.

Eumorpha pandorus, Ipswich, August 10, 2016, Sissy B. Ffolliott.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis MDA/Sf, Nessus Sphinix: Day flier: widely distributed (Topsfield, Groveland; June). If you have Virginia Creeper, you probably have Nessus Sphinx. Two bright, distinct, narrow yellow bands are often visible on the abdomen.

Amphion floridensis, 3, June 7, 2007, Newbury (Old Town Hill), Matthew Arey
Amphion floridensis, Ipswich, June 14, 2014, Sissy ffolliott

Darapsa choerilus MDA, 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. Matthew reports it in June-July in Boxford

Darapsa myron MDA, Virginia Creeper Sphinx; Grapevine Sphinx: Recorded for Essex County (Boxford, July). Widely reported as far north as southern Maine. If you have foodplants indicated in common names, you probably have myron nearby.

Darapsa versicolor MDA, Hydrangea Sphinx: If you have hydrangea growing near stream, then you may have Hydrnagea Sphinx. Not widely reported (Boxford: July 29, 1984), however, and probably is uncommon or not present.

Deidamia inscriptum MDA, Lettered Sphinx: Recorded in western Massachusetts and just south of Essex so it is not surprising to find Matthew's sighting in Boxford, May 16, 1997. Generally absent to the north so would be uncommon.

Hyles gallii MDA, Bedstraw Hawk Moth; Gallium Sphinx: Reported in Topsfield and Boxford in June.

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

Hyles gallii (4), July 27, 2006, Old Town Hill in Newbury, Matthew D. Arey

Hyles lineata MDA/SF, White-lined Sphinx: Reported from Essex County (May 17, 1999). It is a strong migrator from the south, and there are records from the west and to the north.

Hyles lineata (1), July 27, 2006, Old Town Hill in Newbury, Matthew D. Arey
Hyles lineata, Ipswich, August 24, 2013, Sissy Ffolliott.

Sphecodina abbottii MDA, Abbott's Sphinx: Very much under reported (Boxford, Topsfield, Danvers; May-June). Rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections. Grape is a popular larval host.

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