Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September, 2010
Updated/dedicated as per personal communication with Carrie Murchison, September 2, 2011
Updated as per personal communication with Soren Sidell-Peterson via Anne Malena, September 15, 2011); September 16, 2011

Penobscot County, northern Maine
Sphingidae

Ceratomia amyntor prepupal larva, Orono, Penobscot County, Maine,
September 1, 2011, courtesy of Carrie Murchison.

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

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 County. Twenty-four are reported as of September 2010 on U.S.G.S. (now BAMONA), including Agrius cingulata which would only occur as an adult stray. I am also quite surprised to see Ceratomia catalpae on the USGS list as it generally flies much more to the south. The same would be true of Manduca rustica. I think they would only occur as adult strays, so I have not included them in larval thumbnails.

This page is dedicated to Carrie Murchison who supplies the Ceratomia amyntor larval image above.

Carrie writes, "Hello, I found this larva in the road on campus at the University of Maine. I've been trying to figure out what kind of larva it is. Do you have any idea? The picture isn't very good quality, but he does look like a sphinx. He is red-purplish on the top and has four little short horns near the head of his body, and one long horn on his rear."

Before I could respond with an email, Carrie had correctly identified the caterpillar as that of Ceratomia amyntor.

It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the caterpillars (larvae) 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. It is requested that sightings also be summitted to BAMONA, via the link to the left.

Many thanks to Anne Malena who forwarded the following image of a Sphinx poecila larva, sent to her by photographer Soren Sidell-Peterson.

Sphinx poecila fifth instar, Orono, Penobscot County, Maine,
September 13, 2011, courtesy of Soren Sidell-Peterson via Anne Malena.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia amyntor WO/CM, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx
Caterpillars show both brown and green forms and are unmistakeable due to four horns on the thorax (near the head).

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

Ceratomia amyntor, Orono, September 1, 2011, Carrie Murchison

Ceratomia undulosa USGS, the Waved Sphinx

Note the pinkish-orange tail, spiracles outlined in red and the cream stripes on the head.
The dramatic color change from the dorsal yellow-green to the lateral light greyish-blue is not always as intense as in this image.

Dolba hyloeus USGS, the Pawpaw Sphinx

Note the smooth skin, blue-black horn and small black spiracles.
Pawpaw is the primary host. Littleleaf sweetfern, possum haw, inkberry, tall gallberry holly and others are also utilized.

Lapara bombycoides USGS, the Northern Pine Sphinx

This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines.

The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.

Lintneria eremitus WO, the Hermit Sphinx

Note triangular bump on the thorax.

Larval hosts are various species of beebalm (Monarda), mints (Mentha), bugleweed (Lycopis), and sage (Salvia).

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth
Note the solid black horn and dark spiracular rings. In addition to the white oblique lines, there are fainter white rings, especially on the back.

I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter it.

Sphinx canadensis USGS, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx.

This species is not common at lights, and is not often reported anywhere, but is present in Kennebec County.

Larval host may be exclusively black ash (Fraxinus nigra). Variable appearance but always with granulous horn.

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

Note pale blue horn and the creamy-white stripes on head. The yellow form has a red horn. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum USGS, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night. Larvae have been found on Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts and have been reared to pupation in Michigan on Prunus serotina. Note purple oblique lines.

Sphinx kalmiae USGS, the Laurel Sphinx

In the final instar, the black on the head, lateral lines, horn and on abdominal legs is diagnostic.

Larvae feed primarily on lilac and fringe.

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

This one is reported from Richmond and from northeastern New Jersey into southern Canada.

Sphinx poecila BAMONA/SS-PvAM, the Poecila Sphinx

If you have blueberries in the woods, then you probably have the Poecila Sphinx.

The green form is more common.

Sphinx poecila larva, Orono, September 13, 2011, Soren Sidell-Peterson via Anne Malena

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis USGS, the Walnut Sphinx

Amorpha juglandis larvae feed upon Walnut and butternut (Juglans), hickory (Carya), alder (Alnus), beech (Fagus), hazelnut (Corylus), and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya).

Pachysphinx modesta USGS, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx.

It is fond of poplars and willows and is most likely present.

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx

It would be more common to the south and is a relatively uncommon species.
Only rarely are they seen in Maine. Blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), cherries (Prunus) and willows (Salix) are favorite larval foodplants.

Paonias excaecata USGS, the Blinded Sphinx

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Wild cherry species are the favorites as larval foodplants, but eggs will also be deposited on birches and other forest trees.

There are varying degrees in the amount of red markings along the sides.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, the Twin-spotted Sphinx

Larvae feed upon many forest trees including birches and cherries, but are expecially fond of poplars and willows. Red markings on sides vary greatly from specimen to specimen.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, Cerisy's Sphinx; Cerisyi larvae greatly resemble modesta larvae, both being pale green, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, and very pale longitudinal lines running from the head to a more pronounced anal diagonal line. Larvae have green heads bounded dorsally with a pale yellow inverted "V".

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thysbe USGS, the Hummingbird Clearwing

There is also an orangey-pink prepupal form. The lateral line runs from S1 to the blue horn.

Hemaris thysbe larvae feed on viburnum and related plants.

Hemaris diffinis USGS, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
Larval host plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum) and dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). Horn is black with a yellow base.

Hemaris gracilis USGS, 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. unlikely

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, the Achemon Sphinx

Larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies (Ampelopsis).

Larvae occur in both a light (green) form and darker (tan/brown/reddish) forms. Note six "segmented" oblique lines. Generally more southerly.

Eumorpha pandorus WO, the Pandorus Sphinx

If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you might encounter this species.

Note the five large white ovals. There are orangey-brown and green forms also.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis USGS, the Nessus Sphinix

In additon to Virginia creeper larvae accept Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum).

Larvae are green until the final instar.

Darapsa choerilus USGS, the Azalea Sphinx

Larvae feed on Azalea and Viburnum and progress very rapidly. The larva to the left on Viburnum cassinoides is getting ready to pupate. Color change from green to light burgundy-brown indicates pupation is imminent.

Darapsa myron WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx

If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this species nearby. The lower wings are orange. Larvae feed on Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Grape (Vitis), Ampelopsis, and Viburnum.

Darapsa versicolor WO, the Hydrangea Sphinx

Larvae feed on Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and waterwillow (Decodon verticillatus).

Note small head which can be retracted into the thorax.

Deidamia inscriptum WO, the Lettered Sphinx

Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.

The alternating yellow and greyish-green rings across the back distinguish this larva.

Hyles gallii USGS, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

Larvae come in black and in brown forms and often feed on Epilobium (fireweed).

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx

Larvae are highly varied and feed on a great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), and Fuschia.
All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Proserpinus flavosfasciata USGS, Yellow-banded Day Sphinx: Penultimate instar is pale green with pair of pale, dorsolateral lines running from head to base of short caudal horn. Last instar is brown-black with numerous black dots; caudal horn replaced by a black button surrounded by whitish band edged with black.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, the Abbott's Sphinx

Larvae feed at night on grape (Vitis) and ampelopsis (Ampelopsis) and hide on the bark of their host plants during the day. Virginia creeper would also be a suitable host.

There is also a dark form without the green patches. Note the "raised eye", replacing the anal horn.


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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