Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, July 2010
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America website (formerly USGS), July 2010
Updated as per personal communication with Steven Lemieux, via Daniel Marlos (WTB); C. undulosa; L. bombycoides; H. thysbe; July-August 2011
Updated as per personal communication with Leslie Hubbard (Pachysphinx modesta, Litchfield, June 5, 2015); June 6, 2015

Kennebec County, Maine

Lapara bombycoides, Sidney, Kennebec County, Maine,
July 2011, courtesy of Steven Lemieux, via Daniel Marlos

This page is dedicated to Steven Lemieux who provides the images of Ceratomia undulosa, Hemaris thysbe and Lapara bombycoides from Sidney, Kennebec County, Maine, July 2011.

Ceratomia undulosa, Sidney, Kennebec County, Maine,
July 2011, courtesy of Steven Lemieux, via Daniel Marlos

Thirty-seven Sphingidae species are listed for Maine on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Kennebec (seven are reported on U.S.G.S. as of July 13, 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 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.

Many thanks to Leslie Hubbard who encountered a freshly emerged female Pachysphinx modesta, June 5, 2015. Leslie got to watch the moth inflate its wings, and then found it coupled with a male the following morning.

Leslie writes, "Was cleaning out my flower bed today June 5, 2015 about 4:00 pm. All of a sudden "this thing" appeared - it was unlike anything I had seen before. Reminded me of a hellbender you see in streams. Within 4 hours it morphed into a big poplar sphinx. I have watched monarchs go through their life cycles but this was a new one on me. Thought you might enjoy the pictures. Really didn't know much about moth life cycles until today - thanks for all your wonderful information!"

Pachysphinx modesta female newly emerged, left (June 5); in copula right (June 6),
Litchfield, Kennebec County, Maine, courtesy of Leslie Hubbard.

The moth needs to climb and hang so that it can properly pump fluid into its wing veins so they can inflate and then harden in preparation for flight.

Pachysphinx modesta female hanging/inflating, left (June 5); inflated/resting (June 5),
Litchfield, Kennebec County, Maine, courtesy of Leslie Hubbard.

Almost fully inflated, the wings are still quite soft. The inflating process usually takes 15-30 minutes, and then it is often an hour or two after that that fluid has hardened and wings are stiff and ready for flight.

The female usually does not fly until she has copulated with a male. Shortly before midnight she extends a wick-like structure from abdominal tip and exudes a pheromone (scent) into the night sky. Males fly into the wind and track the pheromone to locate the female.

Often the pair will remain in copula until the following evening. The male flies off in search of another mate and the female begins her egg laying flight, depositing eggs in small batches (4-6) on host plant (poplars, willows) foliage. Over four to five nights she will visit many trees and deposit between 200-300 small green eggs.

Neither the male nor female will eat anything in the adult stage. They have no mouth parts or feeding tubes. It would seem their sole purpose is reproduction, and they only usually live off fats stored from their caterpillar days for an adult life of 5-8 days.

Perhaps in 4-6 weeks Leslie will find a caterpillar or two feeding on a nearby poplar or willow. There is probably one in her yard near the garden!

Visit Kennebec County Sphingidae Larvae.

Visit Maine Catocala: Underwing Moths.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata USGS unlikely stray: Enountered in Kennebec County as a stray from much further south. It might appear in the fall, but is unlikely. The moth is a very strong flier and is frequently encountered far north of its usual range.

Ceratomia amyntor WO, Elm Sphinx, Four-horned Sphinx: Brown with dark brown and white markings including white costal area near wing base, dark streaks along veins, and white spot in the cell. Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia undulosa WO/SL, Waved Sphinx: Pale brownish gray (sometimes dark) with wavy black and white lines and black-outlined white cell spot. Hw gray with diffuse darker bands.

Ceratomia undulosa, Sidney, July 28, 2011, courtesy of Steven Lemieux

Dolba hyloeus USGS, Pawpaw Sphinx: Dark brown with dusting of white scales. Some moths have patches of reddish or yellowish brown on wings. Larvae not limited to pawpaw.

Lapara bombycoides USGS/SL, Northern Pine Sphinx: Gray with heavy black bands. The upperside of the hindwing is brownish gray with no markings.

Lapara bombycoides, Sidney, July 2011, courtesy of Steven Lemieux

Lintneria eremitus WO, Hermit Sphinx: Gray-brown with wavy lines, black dashes, and one or two small white spots near the center of the costa.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS Five-spotted Hawkmoth: If you grow tomatoes, you might encounter it.

Sphinx canadensis USGS, Canadian Sphinx: Uncommon, not often reported anywhere, but it is reported in nearby Aroostook County. Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry (Vaccinium).

Sphinx chersis WO, Northern Ash Sphinx, Great Ash Sphinx: Soft dark gray to blue-gray with series of black dashes, one of which reaches wing tip.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx
Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest. We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see the other Sphingidae.

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: The upperside of the forewing is yellowish gray in males and pale gray with a faint yellow tint in females. It seems to be an uncommon species.

Sphinx poecila WO, Poecila Sphinx: If you have blueberries in fields/woods, then you probably have poecila. .

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, Walnut Sphinx: 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. See file for different female.

Pachysphinx modesta WO/LH, Modest Sphinx, Poplar Sphinx: This moth has a large, heavy body, and females can be remarkably plump. They are common on Prince Edward Island.

Pachysphinx modesta, Litchfield, June 5-6, 2015, Leslie Hubbard.

Paonias astylus WO, Huckleberry Sphinx: It is recorded for northeastern Massachusetts and western Connecticut, and makes its way into southern Maine. It would be more common in more southerly locales.

Paonias excaecata WO, Blinded Sphinx: Named for dull grey-blue spot in hindwing. Widely distributedion, probably common. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Paonias myops WO, Small-eyed Sphinx: Named for small eye-spot in hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution, probably present. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, reported as far south as Florida.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, Cerisyi's Sphinx: Probably flies throughout Maine. The light-coloured, forewing, apical arc does not reach the outer margin in its lower half.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, Twin-spotted Sphinx: This moth is widely distributed and fairly common.
Near the right forewing apex there is complete light coloured arc (letter "c") reaching outer margin.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe, WO, Hummingbird Clearwing: Not difficult to see why many gardeners mistake Hemaris thysbe for small hummingbird as it hovers, sipping nectar from flowers through long feeding tube.

Hemaris thysbe, Sidney Boat Landing, August 24, 2011, Steve Lemieux.

Hemaris diffinis WO, Snowberry Clearwing: Adults mimic bumblebees, quite variable. Wings basically clear, dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases, edges. Thorax golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. Abdomen: dark (black); 1-2 yellow segments before tip.

Hemaris gracilis WO, Slender Clearwing, Graceful Clearwing: Distinguished from similar species by pair of red-brown bands on undersides of thorax, which varies from green to yellow-green dorsally and sometimes brown with white underneath.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, Achemon Sphinx: Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha pandorus WO, 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 been reported.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO. Nessus sphinx flies during day and at dusk: two bright yellow bands on tufted abdomin. At rest, dark red-brown upperwings hide hw red-orange median band and yellow spot. In some specimens median band may be very pale or absent. Concave regions of fw outer margin also have pale yellow markings in fringe area.

Darapsa choerilus WO, 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 upperside dark brown to pale yellowish gray, with olive tint (often quite green). Dark rectangular patch on costal margin, although this may be reduced or absent. HW: pale orange.

Darapsa versicolor WO, 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, Lettered Sphinx: Fw outer margin deeply scalloped. Light brown with dark brown markings. Ssmall black and white spot near tip. The upperside of the hindwing is orange-brown with a dark brown outer margin and median line.

Hyles gallii WO, Bedstraw Hawk Moth, Gallium Sphinx:

Hyles lineata possible, but unlikely stray, White-lined Sphinx: It is a strong migrator from the south, and there are records from the west and to the north. non resident stray

Proserpinus flavofasciata WO, Yellow-banded Day Sphinx: Fw: medium to dark brown with faint to distinct white median band. Hw: dark brown with wide orange median band which may not reach inner margin. Mimics bumblebee. Afternoon flight as single brood from April-June in meadows in coniferous forests.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, Abbott's Sphinx: Adults mimic bumblebees, make buzzing sound when feeding. Wing margins scalloped. Fwdark brown with light brown bands and markings. Hw: 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.

Use your browser "Back" button to return to the previous page.

This page is brought to you by Bill Oehlke and the WLSS. Pages are on space rented from Bizland. If you would like to become a "Patron of the Sphingidae Site", contact Bill.

Please send sightings/images to Bill. I will do my best to respond to requests for identification help.

Show appreciation for this site by clicking on flashing butterfly to the left.
The link will take you to a page with links to many insect sites.