Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 17, 2011

Nantucket County


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.

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

Visit Nantucket 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 WO stray

Pink "ribs" on abdomen and on hindwings are diagnostic, but occasionally a variation "decolora" whithout the pink has been observed.

Ceratomia amyntor WO, 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. Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

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

Ceratomia undulosa WO, 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. The upperside of the hindwing is gray with diffuse darker bands. Some individuals are 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 WO, the 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 WO, Southern Pine Sphinx: Fw upperside gray with two (sometimes one or three) black dashes near wing center; other markings usually diffuse. Hw upperside uniform brown-gray. This species does not have 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:
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. The upperside of the hindwing is black with two white bands and a triangular black patch at the base. Note the golden hair on the thorax

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: Abdomen usually has five but sometimes six pairs of yellow bands. Fw upperside blurry brown and gray. Hw upperside banded with brown and white and has two well-separated median zigzag bands. Fw fringes grayish, not distinctly spotted with white.

Manduca sexta WO, the Carolina Sphinx: Abdomen usually has six pairs of yellow bands, broken across the back. Sixth pair quite small. Fw upperside: indistinct black, brown, white markings. Hw upperside: banded with black, white; two black zigzag median lines very close together with hardly any white showing between them. Fw fringes spotted with white.

Paratrea plebeja WO, the Plebian 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. The upperside of the hindwing is dark gray with an obscure dark median band.

Sphinx canadensis WO, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere. Fw upperside gray-brown or yellow-gray with black streaks along and between veins and an interrupted white line along outer margin. Hw upperside black with white bands. 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. The upperside of the hindwing is black with blurry pale gray bands. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx: The forewing is dull slate grey with considerable light grey scaling in a broad band along the costa about 3/4 of distance from body toward the apex. Median lines are black and thin. There is a wavy, diffuse dark subterminal line, inwardly bordered by white, and a whitish bar in terminal area, paralleling outer margin.

Sphinx gordius WO, the Apple Sphinx: Fw fringes: mostly black with some white; Hw fringes: mostly white with a few black patches. Fw upperside ranges from brown with black borders through brownish gray with paler borders to pale gray with no borders. Dashes, submarginal line, and cell spot are usually weak.

Sphinx kalmiae WO, 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 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, the Poecila Sphinx: Fw fringes: checkered black and white; Hw fringes almost pure white (lightly checked with grey). Fw dark gray with diffuse black and gray wavy lines with series of black dashes ending at wing tip, and white cell spot. Cell spot readily distinguishes poecila from canadensis. Hw brownish gray with wide black border and black median line.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, 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. Patterns range from faint to pronounced. See the file for the female; she is different.

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

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

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx

Both sexes rest with wings parallel to the resting surface, with the upper lobes of the hindwings protruding above the forewings. The lower abdomen of the male arcs upward toward the head, while the abdomen of the female hangs strait down on a vertical surface.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx: Fw outer margin is quite wavy. There is a dark cell spot and a dark oblique line mid wing from costa almost to inner margin. Basic ground colour is pinkish brown. At rest the lower wings are almost completely hidden. Males demonstrate a strong curve to abdomen. Moth gets its name from blue-gray pupil surrounded by black, with hot pink wing scales in hw basal area.

Paonias myopsWO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution.

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

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx: Similar to but smaller than S. cerisyi. Larger blue patches on more vibrant, deeper purple in lower wings. Note complete (i.e. outer margin to outer margin) off-white arc just below fw apex. In S. cerisyi, lower portion of arc does not return to outer margin.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe WO, 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. Off-white legs.

Hemaris gracilis WO, 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. Red legs.

Hemaris diffinis WO, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

Black legs.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx

The forewing is light grey and brown with many lines, and there are dark patches near the middle of the inner margin, near the apex and near the anal angle. The entire basal area of the hindwing is pink.

Eumorpha pandorus WO, the Pandorus Sphinx: Fw upperside is light brown with prominent shades of olive green to green. Fw has pink streaks along vein ends and near inner margin, and dark squarish mark at middle of inner margin.Area from base to squarish mark is dark green. Underside usually yellow-green, but sometimes pale brown.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, 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.

Cautethia grotei WO ??, 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; unlikely possibility

Darapsa choerilus WO, 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 WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx
FW upperside is 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 is pale orange.

Darapsa versicolor WO, 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 WO , 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.

Hyles gallii WO , 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 lineata WO , the White-lined Sphinx

The forewing upperside is dark olive brown with paler brown along the costa and outer margin, a narrow tan band running from the wing tip to the base, and white streaks along the veins. The hindwing upperside is black with a reddish pink median band.

Sphecodina abbottii WO , the Abbott's Sphinx

Adults are said to 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.

Xylophanes tersa WO , 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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