Cascade County, Montana

Hyles euphorbiae, Great Falls, Montana, July 29, 2006,
courtesy of Ingrid Ryder.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to the Karl and Ingrid Ryder family who sent me the image of Hyles euphorbiae at the top of the page.

Ingrid writes, "Hi there. We found this caterpillar just yesterday (07/29/06) while out for a family walk. We live in Great Falls, Montana (Cascade County). We looked through your Sphinginae subfamily pictures but couldn't identify this dark red caterpillar whom my five year old son said looks like Spiderman. Notice the much smaller green version on the same stem.

"This caterpillar is a monster and not surprisingly, we saw a few humongous moths here this spring, early summer, including a hummingbird moth just a few days ago eating nectar out of my nicotiana flowers. We have never seen so many large moths around. Thanks for the look.."

Hyles euphorbiae was introduced from Europe to try to control leafy spurge. The moth seems to be doing very well in North America and its range seems to be expanding. Earlier this year I received images of adults from South Dakota.

Ingrid also sent the beautiful image of the Ceratomia undulosa moth, below.

Ceratomia undulosa, May 15, 2006, Great Falls, Montana,
courtesy of Ingrid Ryder.

Ten Sphingidae species are listed for Montana on the USGS checklist. I have added some species to Montana which I feel are likely present. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Cascade County (only one on USGS: One-eyed Sphinx, (Smerinthus cerisyi).

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

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Cascade County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or might be present. A USGS indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website and/or in Moths of Western North America, #2. Distribution of Sphingidae of Western North America, revised, 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 image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

Many thanks to Sandra Rumney who confirms Pachysphinx occidentalis and Paoanias myops in Cascade, Cascade County.

Pachysphinx occidentalis, Cascade, Cascade County, Montana,
June 23, 2014, courtesy of Sandra Rumney.

Paonias myops, Cascade, Cascade County, Montana,
July 6, 2014, courtesy of Sandra Rumney.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia undulosa WO/IR, Waved Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is pale brownish gray with wavy black and white lines and a black-outlined white cell spot.
possibly; confirmed by Ingrid Ryder

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. Larvae feed on tomatoes and go by the common name of "Tomato Hornworms".

Sphinx chersis WO, Northern Ash Sphinx; Great Ash Sphinx:Fw: 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, Wild Cherry Sphinx: Sphinx drupiferarum larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night.

Sphinx vashti WO, Snowberry Sphinx: Forewing has a narrow black subterminal line bordered by a white inverted V-shaped line on the outside, and a black line running inwards from the apex of the wing. It is most often found in montane woodlands and along streamcourses.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx: This moth has a large, heavy body, and females can be remarkably plump.

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO/SR, the Big Poplar Sphinx: This one is quite similar to Pachysphinx modesta, with modesta being smaller and darker. There are two color forms: the upperside of the forewings is yellow brown in the pale form and dark gray in the dark form. Lines and bands are well-defined.

Pachysphinx occidentalis, Cascade, June 23, 2014, courtesy of Sandra Rumney.

Paonias excaecatus WO, the Blinded Sphinx: The grey-blue eyespot of the hindwing gives this species its name. Larvae feed on birches, willows, cherries and oaks.

The outer edge of the forewings is quite scalloped.

Paonias myops WO/SR, the Small-eyed Sphinx: This small species is probably widespread and common. This species ranges across North America. The hindwings have a small blue eyespot ringed with black on a yellow background.

Paonias myops, Cascade, July 6, 2014, courtesy of Sandra Rumney.

Smerinthus cerisyi USGS, the Cerisyi's Sphinx

If you have willows and poplars nearby, you've probably got populations of the Cerisyi's Sphinx.

The hindwings are quite striking.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, 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. possibly

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe

Hemaris diffinis WO, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth: The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments just before the end.

Macroglossini tribe

Hyles euphorbiae IR, 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.
Ingrid Ryder confirms with larval sightings, July 2006.

Hyles gallii WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx: This species is not officially reported from Cascade County; however, if you have Gallium or Epilobium, you probably have populations of this species.

Hyles lineata WO, White-lined Sphinx: This species is very widespread. It can be seen flying during the day, into the evening and also at night. The highly variable larvae are often found in people's gardens.

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