Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, October, 2008
Arenac County, central eastern Michigan
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
"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
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.
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.
This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines.
The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.
Note triangular bump on the thorax.
Larval hosts are various species of beebalm (Monarda), mints (Mentha), bugleweed (Lycopis),
and sage (Salvia).
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, 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.
WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash
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.
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.
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.
the Canadian Sphinx or
Larval hosts are willow
(Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula),
apple (Malus), ash (Fraxinus), waxmyrtle
(Morella), and northern bayberry.
If you have blueberries in the woods, then you might have the
The green form is more common.
Amorpha juglandis larvae feed upon Walnut and butternut (Juglans),
hickory (Carya), alder (Alnus), beech (Fagus),
hazelnut (Corylus), and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya).
the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
Larvae feed on poplars and cottonwood.
Anal horn all but disappears in final instar.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing
Larval foods are blueberries including low bush blueberry
(Vaccinium vacillans), and laurel (Kalmia), all in the
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.
Larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper
(Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies
Larvae occur in both a light (green) form and a darker (tan/brown)
form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.
Eumorpha pandorus, Sterling, October 9, 2008, Polly Ann Herzberg.
If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you might encounter
Note the five large white ovals. There are
orangey-brown and green
forms also. new northern range limit
In additon to Virginia creeper larvae accept Grape (Vitis),
ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum).
Larvae are green until the final instar.
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.
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.
Larvae feed on Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens),
buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and waterwillow
Note small head which can be retracted into the thorax. not common
WOPB, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth
or Gallium Sphinx:
Larvae come in black and in brown forms and often feed on
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
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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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.