Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Kelly Boedigheimer, June 2006
Updated as per personal communication with Scott Boutilier
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, December 7, 2012
Updated as per personal communication with Lisa Seliskar (Hemaris thysbe nectaring at Johnny Jump-ups, Britt, June, 2011); December 7, 2012

St. Louis County, Minnesota

Pachysphinx modesta, pairing on gargoyle head,
Duluth, Minnesota, June 6, 2006, courtesy of Kelly Boedigheimer.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Kelly Boedigheimer who sent me the image and sigting data for the Pachysphinx modesta pair from Duluth, St. Louis County.

Kelly writes, "I encountered these moths in my backyard in Duluth, Minnesota, on June 6th, 2006. They were mating on my garden gargoyle and were pretty big...probably 4-5 inches across the widest part of the pic. I wish I'd taken out a ruler and set it near them. Are they of the sphindidae species?"

Twelve Sphingidae species are listed for Minnesota on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in St. Louis County (only Hyles lineata is reported on U.S.G.S. for St. Louis County). 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 "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.

Scott Boutilier writes, "Here’s some data from the week of June 9-15 for St. Louis county Minnesota: P. modesta, S. kalmiae, C. undulosa, S. luscitiosa, D. myron, D. pholus, P. myops, S. jamaicensis, S. cerisyi."

Many thanks to Lisa Seliskar who provides the folllowing image of Hemaris diffinis.

Hemaris diffinis, Sand Lake, Britt, St. Louis County, Minnesota,
nectaring at Johnny Jump-ups, June 2011, courtesy of Lisa Seliskar.

Please also send your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent on-line resource.

Visit StLouis 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/SB, the Waved Sphinx

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

Lapara bombycoides WO, the 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 the Five-spotted Hawkmoth
The moth abdomen usually has five but sometimes six pairs of yellow bands. The upperside of the forewing is blurry brown and gray. If you grow tomatoes, you might encounter it.

Sphinx canadensis WO, 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 chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx
The upperside of the forewing is 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 kalmiae WO/SB, 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 luscitiosa SB, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx

This one is reported from St. Louis by Scott Boutilier.

Sphinx poecila WO, 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.

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 KB/SB, 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, Duluth, Minnesota, June 6, 2006, Kelly Boedigheimer.

Paonias excaecata WO, 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 myops WO/SB, 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.

Smerinthus cerisyi WO/SB, 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, May 24, 2007, Scott Boutilier

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO/SB, the 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.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris diffinis WO/LS, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth

This moth is widely distributed and is probably (confirmed by Lisa Seliskar) found in St. Louis County.

Hemaris diffinis, Sand Lake, Britt, June 2011, courtesy of Lisa Seliskar.

See Hemaris comparison

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/SB, 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/SB, 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.

Hyles gallii WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is not reported in Minnesota on USGS, but I suspect its presence in St. Louis 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 recorded in St. Louis 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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