Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Ian Miller; July 29, 2013
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America; July 29, 2013
Updated as per BAMONA; July 29, 2013

Cook County, Minnesota

Collecting sheet, Cook County, Minnesota,
July 8, 2013, courtesy of Ian Miller.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Ian Miller who sends me many sighting reports from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Ian writes, "Bill,

"Feel free to use this photo as you wish. This was from July 8th in Cook County, MN. The sphinx liked settling between the cabin and the sheet so many are not visible in this photograph. I believe the new moon occurred during this night.

"The sphingidae species include: Smerinthus cerysi, Smerinthus jamaicensis, Paonias myops, Paonias excaecatus, Darapsa myron, Pachysphinx modesta, Sphinx poecila, Sphinx kalimae, Sphinx canadensis, Hyles gallii, and Hyles euphorbiae.

"I have Hyles gallii larva on fireweed right now (July 22, 2013); Smerinthus cerysi on birch willow and aspen and Sphinx kalmiae on lilac (also on white ash).

"I did manage to obtain half dozen Hyles euphorbiae ova but have no leafy spurge, and they declined flowering spurge fireweed and primrose. Figured I would attempt some other hosts for fun.

Thirty-seven Sphingidae species are listed for Minnesota on the BAMONA website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Cook County (only Hemaris diffinis is reported on BAMONA as of July 29, 2013). 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 or might be present. I have included many species not on the USGS list for Minnesota; I believe they are or might be present.

A "BAMONA" 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, or on BAMONA website.

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 on-line resource.

Visit Cook County Sphingidae Larvae: Caterpillars; Hornworms

Visit Minnesota Catocala: Underwing Moths

If you are travelling, you can find active Sphingidae checklists for all countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbbean via the links at North, Central, South American Sphingidae checklists

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia amyntor WO, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is brown with dark brown and white markings including a white costal area near the wing base, dark streaks along the veins, and a white spot in the cell. Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia undulosa WO, the Waved Sphinx

It is named for the wavy lines on the forewings. Note black and white collar separating thorax from abdomen.

Lintneria eremitus WO, 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.

Lapara bombycoides WO, Northern Pine Sphinx

Reported from northern Minnesota and central western Wisconsin, it should be present in St. Louis County as well. This is one we have on P.E.I.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO Five-spotted Hawkmoth. Abdomen usually has five but sometimes six pairs of yellow bands. Forewing is blurry brown and gray. If you grow tomatoes, you might encounter it. (generally more southerly)

Sphinx canadensis IM, Sphinx canadensis, the Canadian Sphinx, is not common, and is not often reported anywhere. The absence of the white spot on each forewing and the more brownish coloration serve to separate canadensis from S. poecila. Larval hosts are white ash (Fraxinus americana) and blueberry (Vaccinium).

Sphinx canadensis, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Sphinx chersis WO, Northern Ash Sphinx; Great Ash Sphinx: Soft dark gray to blue-gray with a series of black dashes, one of which reaches the wing tip. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.

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 frequently.

Sphinx gordius WO, Apple Sphinx: Note the pm line, absent in Sphinx poecila which generally flies more to the north.

Sphinx kalmiae IM, 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 kalmiae, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Sphinx luscitiosa WO, Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx: Fw: yellowish gray in males; pale gray with a faint yellow tint in females. Dark border on outer margin widens as it approaches inner margin. Hw deep yellow in males, pale yellow in females; both with wide black border.

Sphinx poecila IM, the Poecila Sphinx

If you have blueberries in the woods, then you might have the Poecila Sphinx. They are pretty common here on Prince Edward Island, but don't fly too far west of Wisconsin.

Sphinx poecila, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, the Walnut Sphinx. This moth is also fairly widely reported to the east and south and might be present.
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 IM, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

This moth is also found in Canada. Moths have very heavy bodies. Larvae eat poplar and willow.

Pachysphinx modesta, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Paonias excaecata IM, the Blinded Sphinx. Named for the dull grey-blue spot in the hindwing, this moth has a very wide distribution.

I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island.

Paonias excaecata, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Paonias myops IM, the Small-eyed Sphinx. Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a very wide distribution.

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

Paonias myops, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Smerinthus cerisyi IM, the Cerisyi's Sphinx. Smerinthus cerisyi is found in the southern regions of all Canadian provinces and in northern border states. The One-eyed Sphinx is also found along the U.S. west coast, eastward to the Rockies. At my home in Montague, P.E.I., Canada, they are quite common.

Smerinthus cerisyi, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Smerinthus jamaicensis IM, Twin-spotted Sphinx. Smerinthus jamaicensis closely resembles Smerinthus cerisyi, but jamaicensis is much smaller with larger blue patches on more vibrant and deeper purple in the lower wings.

Smerinthus jamaicensis, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris diffinis BAMONA, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

This moth is widely distributed and is found in Cook County.

Hemaris gracilis WO, The Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing: This day flier is not commonly reported.

Hemaris thysbe WO, the Hummingbird Clearwing. It is not difficult to see why many gardeners would mistake an Hemaris thysbe moth for a small hummingbird as it hovers, sipping nectar from flowers through a long feeding tube.

See Hemaris comparisons.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, 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 WO, 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 IM, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx: If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you might have this species nearby. The lower wings are orange.

Darapsa myron, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Hyles euphorbiae IM, Spurge Hawk Moth. The body is light brown with various white and dark brown markings, while the wings have a conspicuous tan, brown, and pink or red color pattern.

Hyles euphorbiae, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Hyles gallii IM, Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx. This species is not reported in Minnesota on USGS, but I suspect its presence in Cook County (confirmed).
Some years I see them on P.E.I., some years, I do not.

Hyles gallii, July 8, 2013, Ian Miller.

Hyles lineata WO, the White-lined Sphinx. This species is not officially recorded in Cook County. It is a strong migrator from the south, and probably appears late summer or early fall.

Proserpinus flavofasciata WO, Yellow-banded Day Sphinx. 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. Moth mimics bumblebee. Flies in afternoon as single brood from April-June in coniferous forest meadows.

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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