Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Dave Small, June 2008; ongoing
Updated as per personal communication with Carl Kamp (Hemaris diffinis, Royalston, May 30, 2009)
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, June 2, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Brigitte Flick (Sphinx chersis, Gardner, June 16, 2010); November 22, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with Betsy Higgins (excaecata, gallii, choerilus) Athol; September 25, 2011

Worcester County, Massachusetts

Pachysphinx modesta, Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts,
June 8, 2008, courtesy of Dave Small.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Dave Small who sent sightings/images of several Sphingidae from Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Dave maintains a pbase website at Athol, Worcester County Moths.

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 Worcester County (eleven species are recorded on U.S.G.S. as of June 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 send your sightings to BAMONA (formerly USGS), an excellent online resource.

Many thanks to Betsy Higgins who has sent quite a few images with data for Athol.

Many thanks also to Joshua S. Rose who sends confirmations of Ceratomia undulosa, Lapara bombycoides, Sphinx kalmiae, Sphinx poecilia, Amorpha juglandis, Paonias excaecatus, Darapsa choerilus, Darapsa myron and Hyles gallii in Worcester County.

These lists are just for those I have photographed. A few others I have seen but not photographed, for instance P. excaecatus in Worcester County. Worth noting, all of my Worcester County records are from Dave Small's Moth Ball. Did you ever see the photo from the 2010 edition when we had four sphingids in a single frame? Catocala on the way....

Visit Worcester 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 WO, Elm Sphinx/Four-horned Sphinx: Fw upperside: brown with dark brown and white markings including white costal area near wing base, dark streaks along veins, and white spot in cell. Hw upperside: light brown and has dark brown band along 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/DS/JSR, Waved Sphinx: Fw Upperside: pale brownish gray with wavy black and white lines and black-outlined white cell spot. Hw Upperside: gray with diffuse darker bands. Some individuals are almost black; others light yellowish brown. Note black and white collar separating thorax from abdomen.

Ceratomia undulosa, June 9, 21, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.

Dolba hyloeus USGS/DS/BH, 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.

Dolba hyloeus, June 14, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.
Dolba hyloeus, June 14, 2009, Athol, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

Lapara bombycoides USGS/BHJSR, 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 bombycoides adult moth, Florence, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, June 5, 2010; Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts, June 18, 2011, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

Lapara coniferarum WO, 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. This species does not have more sharply contrasting black markings of fresh Lapara bombycoides.

Lintneria eremitus WO, Hermit Sphinx.

This species is probably present in Worcester 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 Ash Sphinx. Fw: 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. questionable

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO Five-spotted Hawkmoth. This species is not recorded in Worcester, but, if you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Manduca sexta WO, Carolina Sphinx. This species is not officially recorded in Worcester, but if you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.. Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Paratrea plebeja WO, Plebian Sphinx. This species is not officially recorded in Worcester County, but probably is present.

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 Worcester County as it is reported from Berkshire.

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

Sphinx chersis USGS/DS, Northern Ash Sphinx/Great Ash Sphinx. Fw: soft dark gray to blue-gray with a series of black dashes, one of which reaches the wing tip. Hw: black with blurry pale gray bands. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx chersis, Athol, July 21, 2008, July 19, 2010, Dave Small
Sphinx chersis, Gardner, June 16, 2010, Brigitte Flick

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, Wild Cherry Sphinx: This species is not officially recorded, but I suspect it is present. Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest.

Sphinx gordius WO, Apple Sphinx. This species is probably present in Worcester County. Colouration and markings are highly variable from one specimen to another. Fw fringes are mostly black with some white; those on the hindwing are mostly white with a few black patches.

Sphinx kalmiae USGS/DSJSR, 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 kalmiae, June 9, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.
Sphinx kalmiae, June 7, 2009, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.

Sphinx luscitiosa USGS, 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/DSJSR, 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.

Sphinx poecila, June 26, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WOJSR, Walnut Sphinx: 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 white or pink tinge. Patterns range from faint to pronounced. This is first Sphinx species I reared as a boy in New Jersey. See file for female; she is different.

Pachysphinx modesta USGS/DS the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx. This moth has a large, heavy body, and females can be remarkably plump.

Pachysphinx modesta, June 8, 2008, Athol, David Small.

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx

It is recorded for northeastern Massachusetts and western Connecticut so may be present in Worcester County. It would be more common in southeastern Massachusetts and is a relatively uncommon species.

Paonias excaecata USGS/DS/BHJSR, Blinded Sphinx. Named for the dull grey-blue spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Worcester County. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Paonias excaecata, Athol, June 10, 2008, courtesy of Dave Small.
Paonias excaecata, Athol, June 19, 2011, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

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

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

Paonias myops, Athol, June 10, 2008, courtesy of Dave Small.

Smerinthus cerisyi WO, the Cerisyi's Sphinx

Reported in Berkshire and Essex, it is probably also in Worcester near the southern limit of its eastern range. I never saw one in New Jersey. At my home in Montague, P.E.I., Canada, they are quite common.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO/DS, Twin-spotted Sphinx. This moth is widely distributed and fairly common so I suspect it is in Worcester County.. Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Smerinthus jamaicensis, Athol, June 4, 2011, Dave Small

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.

Hemaris diffinis WO/CK, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown.

Hemaris diffinis, Royalston, May 30, 2009, Carl Kamp

Hemaris gracilis WO, the 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 underneath. They have a red abdomen.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, Achemon Sphinx. Adults nectar from flowers of Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), petunia (Petunia hybrida), mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), and phlox (Phlox). Note differences between this moth and Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha pandorus USGS, 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, Nessus Sphinix. This day flier is widely distributed in surrounding states and in eastern Massachusetts. If you have Virginia Creeper, you probably have the Nessus Sphinx.
Two bright, distinct, narrow yellow bands are often visible on the abdomen.

Darapsa choerilus USGS/DS//BHJSR, 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 almost cetrtainly present.

Darapsa choerilus June 9, 22, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.
Darapsa choerilus, Athol, June 18, 2011, Betsy Higgins.

Darapsa myron WO/DS/BHJSR, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx

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 myron June 14, 21, 2008, Athol, courtesy of Dave Small.
Darapsa myron June 14, 2009, Athol, courtesy of Betsy Higgins.

Darapsa versicolor WO, 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 USGS, 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/BHJSR, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx. This moth is somewhat similar to Hyles lineata, but it lacks the numerous thin white lines of that species and has an irregular creamy bar running form the apex to the body.

Hyles gallii, Athol, June 18-19, 2011, Betsy Higgins

Hyles lineata WO, the White-lined Sphinx

This species is reported in Essex and Berkshire and should be present. It is a strong migrator from the south, and there are records from the east, west and to the north.

Sphecodina abbottii WO/DS, 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.

Sphecodina abbottii Athol, June 1, 2011, Dave Small.

Worcester County Flight Data Sheet 1a
Worcester County Flight Data Sheet 1b
Worcester County Flight Data Sheet 2a
Worcester County Flight Data Sheet 2b

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