Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, June 2009

Penobscot County, Maine
Sphingidae

This page has been inspired by and is dedicated to Phil Stack from Hampden, Maine. Phil sent me a Sphecodina abbottii larva sighting, August 4, 2005.

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 Penobscot (twenty-four 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. 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.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata USGS stray

This species is enountered in Penobscot County as a stray from much further south.
The moth is a very strong flier and is frequently encountered far north of its usual range.

Ceratomia amyntor WO, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx

This moth is not officially recorded in Penobscot, but it has been taken in just to the south. I suspect it is present, but is probably uncommon.
Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia catalpae USGS, the Catalpa Sphinx

This is generally a more southerly species, but it has been recorded in Penobscot. 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 USGS, the Waved Sphinx

This moth is recorded in Penobscot and has been observed to the north (Canada), west and south.
It is named for the wavy lines on the forewings.

Dolba hyloeus USGS, the Pawpaw Sphinx

This moth is recorded in Penobscot County. Larve are not limited to pawpaw.

Lapara bombycoides USGS, the Northern Pine Sphinx

Reported from Penobscot, 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.

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.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This species is not recorded in Pennobscot. I suspect if you grow tomatoes you have encountered it, however.

Manduca rustica USGS, the Rustic Sphinx

This species is recorded in Penobscot County, but probably only as a stray.

Look for three large yellow spots on each side of the abdomen. unlikely stray

Sphinx canadensis USGS, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere, but it is reported in Penobscot County.

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

Sphinx chersis USGS, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx

This species is reported in Penobscot County. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum USGS, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

This species is present and probably flies in May/June and August. We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see the other Sphingidae.

Sphinx kalmiae USGS, the Laurel Sphinx

This species is reported in Penobscot. I have taken them on P.E.I., Canada, and reared them on lilac.

At rest the hindwings are usually completely covered.

Sphinx luscitiosa USGS, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx

This one is reported from Penobscot, and it flies to the south and west in Massachusetts. It seems to be an uncommon species. .

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

This moth is confirmed in Penobscot County.
This is the first Sphinx species I reared as a boy in New Jersey.
See the file for the female; she is different.

Pachysphinx modesta USGS, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

This moth is confirmed in Penobscot County.

They are common on Prince Edward Island.

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 Penobscot County.

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

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably present in Penobscot, although not confirmed.

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

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, the Cerisyi's Sphinx

This species probably flies throughout Maine.

At my home in Montague, P.E.I., Canada, they are quite common.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx

This moth is widely distributed and fairly common so I suspect it is in Penobscot County.

Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thysbe USGS, the Hummingbird Clearwing

This interesting day flier is confirmed for Penobscot.

They are widely distributed in the east from P.E.I. to Florida.

Hemaris gracilis USGS, The Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

This day flier is not commonly reported, but is present in Penobscot County.

Hemaris diffinis USGS, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

This moth is widely distributed and often reported north, west and south of Penobscot as well as in Penobscot.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis USGS, the Nessus Sphinix

This day flier is widely distributed. 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, 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.

Darapsa myron WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx
This moth is not recorded on the U.S.G.S. site for Penobscot County, but it is widely reported as far north as southern Maine. If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you may have this species nearby.

Darapsa versicolor WO, the Hydrangea Sphinx

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

This species has a range generally more to the south.

Hyles gallii USGS, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is reported in Penobscot County.

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

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx

This species is reported from Penobscot County. It is a strong migrator from the south, and there are records from the west and to the north. non resident stray

Proserpinus flavofasciata USGS, the Yellow-banded Day Sphinx

This species is reported from Penobscot County. Adults fly as a single brood from April-June in meadows in coniferous forests. Adults fly during the afternoon.

Sphecodina abbottii PS, the Abbott's Sphinx

This moth is very much under reported so it was very nice to get a sighting report from Phil Stack. It is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections.

Grape is a popular larval host.


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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