Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, October, 2008

Arenac County, central eastern Michigan
Sphingidae Larvae

Eumorpha pandorus courtesy of David Wagner.

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

Forty-six Sphingidae species are listed in the USGS for Michigan. Not all of the species are reported (five: Blinded sphinx (Paonias excaecata), Twin-spotted sphinx (Smerinthus jamaicensis), Laurel sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae), Snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and Slender clearwing (Hemaris gracilis) by USGS as of September 13, 2008) or anticipated (twenty-eight by Bill Oehlke) in Arenac County. Some of the species reported by USGS occur in Michigan as fall strays from further south. The strays do not reproduce in Michigan, so you would not encounter their larvae.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Mrs. Polly Ann Herzberg of Sterling, Arenac County, central eastern Michigan, Polly sent me a sighting of Eumorpha pandorus larva, October, 2008 in Arenac County.

Polly writes, "Yesterday I was working in my flower beds, pulling the sunflowers and cosmos out for the fall. I reached over to pull out a cosmos plant and saw this huge caterpillar. Never in my life had I ever seen one so big before. It was three to four inches long and about an inch round. The color was like rust or a terracotta color. It had its head sunk down in his body and had three or four white circles down each side of the body, and one black dot on its butt. There was no horn, though. I put it in a jar and tried to look it up to see what it would become, then released it this morning. Dumpy me forgot to take a digital picture before I let it go. I went back out to take one and it was gone. Could you tell me what it might have been with out a picture. I think there were a few black dots (very small ) on the front part. We live in a little town, Sterling, Michigan. Thank you for your time."

I replied, "It sounds like the caterpillar of Eumorpha pandorus, the Pandorus Sphinx, or Eumorpha achemon, the Achemon Sphinx. Mature caterpillars excavate subterranean chambers in which to pupate. They spend winter in pupal stage in dormant state and then emerge late spring or early summer as adult moths.

"My Michigan Sphingidae page is at http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/MIsphinx.htm

"There are pictures of adult moths and caterpillars of both species through the links on that page:
achemon: white side panels are elongated and segmented, like twisted pastry, known from Arenac County;
pandorus: white side panels are larger and rounder, usually more southerly than Arenac County, southern third of Michigan, but still a good possibility"

Polly responded, "Thank you so much for all the information. The caterpillar I found was the Eumorpha pandorus. When I went to the web page and scrolled down and saw the first caterpillar. I was so happy that you could figure out which one I was trying so hard to find. You are Very Good at what you do !!! When I saw the picture of the adult, I remembered seeing a huge moth by our garage in the spring and thinking, "What a pretty moth." Now I know what the caterpillar and the adult moth look like. I also notice that the picture was taken in the white pine trees. We have 25 acres with a lot of big white pine trees and grape vines too. Again, Thank you so much for your knowledge; it was driving nuts not knowing and not finding what I was searching for. I must have looked at a 100 caterpillars and was getting frustrated with it. Hugs with a little kiss."

"Thanks for kind words. Glad you were able to confirm the id. I will shortly put an Arenac county Sphingidae page up and will indicate your encounter with E. pandorus. That puts the breeding population further north in Michigan than what is generally published. Nice to know!

It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the larvae you have encountered.

A WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Kalkaska County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this species is present.

Please help me develop this list with improved, documented accuracy by sending sightings (species, date, location), preferably with an image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

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

Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus). There are both green and brown forms. The four horns near the head are diagnostic.

Ceratomia undulosa WO, the Waved Sphinx

Fraxinus, Ligustrum, Quercus, Crataegus and Chionanthus virginicus are listed as hosts.

In the fifth instar, the spiracular ovals are decidedly red and the anal horn is off-white to pinkish laterally.

Lapara bombycoides WO, 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

The caterpillars are called Tomato Hornworms and each has a black horn at the end of the abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Sphinx canadensis WO, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx.

This species is not common at lights, and is not often reported anywhere.

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

Sphinx chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: The larvae are pale bluish green. The head has a pair of yellow lateral bands meeting at the apex. The oblique, lateral stripes are pale and bordered anteriorly with a darker green. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, 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 WO, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx

Larval hosts are willow (Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula), apple (Malus), ash (Fraxinus), waxmyrtle (Morella), and northern bayberry.

Sphinx poecila USGS, the Poecila Sphinx

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

The green form is more common.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, 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 WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

Larvae feed on poplars and cottonwood.

Anal horn all but disappears in final instar.

Paonias excaecata USGS, the Blinded Sphinx

Larval skin is grainy in appearance.

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 cerisyi WO, 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".

Smerinthus jamaicensis USGS, 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.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini Tribe:

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

Larval foods are blueberries including low bush blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), and laurel (Kalmia), all in the heath family (Ericaceae).

Hemaris thysbe WO, 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.

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 a darker (tan/brown) form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.

Eumorpha pandorus PH, 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. new northern range limit

Eumorpha pandorus, Sterling, October 9, 2008, Polly Ann Herzberg.

Macroglossini Tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, 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 WO, 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. not common

Hyles gallii WOPB, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx:

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

Hyles lineata WO, 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.

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.

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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.

Enjoy some of nature's wonderments: giant silk moth cocoons. These overwintering Saturniidae cocoons are available fall and winter. Big, beautiful moths will emerge in spring and summer. Online help available.