Richmond County, New York
Sphingidae: Larval Thumbnails

Manduca sexta, 2006, Staten Island, Richmond Co., N. Y., courtesy of Brian Madigan.

I (William Oehlke) spent my early years in northern New Jersey and now reside in Montague, Prince Edward Island. I still have a frame of Sphingidae specimens from Hunterdon County, New Jersey, done up over forty-five years ago. It contains Sphinx (now Lintneria) eremitus, Sphinx gordius, Paonias myops, Smerinthus jamaicensis, Darapsa choerilus, Darapsa myron, Sphecodina abbottii, Hyles lineata and a stray Xylophanes tersa.

I can also remember seeing Manduca sexta, Manduca quinquemacualta, Manduca jasminearum, Ceratomia catalpae, Ceratomia amyntor, Ceratomia undulosa, Paonias excaecata, Amorpha juglandis, Eumorpha pandorus, Hemaris thysbe and Hyles lineata at lights or along the train tracks (Union County, N.J.) at night nectaring at phlox. The Hemaris species could often be encountered around the butterfly bushes or near the honey suckle vines.

Some of these species I now see at lights on P.E.I.; I have reared most of the local ones.

With so many species from Richmond County common to one or the other or both of my homes, the memories are flooding back!

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Brian Madigan who sent me the image of the Manduca sexta larva at the top of the page.

Unfortunately the larva had been parasited, as evidenced by the white cocoon attached to the caterpillar's body on the white diagonal stripe just below the tail.

Brian reports that the caterpillar shriveled and died a few days after the picture was taken.

It is a 'bug eat bug' world out there; the caterpillars have many natural predators. A small parasitic wasp had earlier deposited a small white egg on the caterpillar's body. The parasite larva burrowed into the caterpillar's body and feasted on its fat reserves and then on its vital organs. At maturity, the parasite larva bored out through the caterpillar's skin and fastened the visible silken cocoon. Usually there are multiple eggs deposited and cocoons spun up, but all it takes is one to eventually kill the moth larva.

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

Forty-six Sphingidae species are listed for New York on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Richmond County (only four are reported on U.S.G.S.). 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 Richmond County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present. A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website and/or 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.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, WO Pink-spotted hawkmoth,

Larvae feed on plants in the Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in the Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in the Americas. There is also a brown form. Look for very large, dark spiracular circles.

Ceratomia amyntor USGS, the Elm Sphinx or Four-horned Sphinx
Caterpillars show both brown and green forms and are unmistakeable due to four horns on the thorax (near the head).

Larvae feed on Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), and cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia catalpae DSSENA, the Catalpa Sphinx

This caterpillar is one of the few North American Sphingidae that feed in large groups. Colouration is distinctive.

The larvae are much more spectacular than the moths. Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia undulosa DSSENA, the Waved Sphinx

Note the pinkish-orange tail, spiracles outlined in red and the cream stripes on the head.
The dramatic color change from the dorsal yellow-green to the lateral light greyish-blue is not always as intense as in this image.

Dolba hyloeus DSSENA, the Pawpaw Sphinx

Note the smooth skin, blue-black horn and small black spiracles.
Pawpaw is the primary host. Littleleaf sweetfern, possum haw, inkberry, tall gallberry holly and others are also utilized.

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.

Lapara coniferarum USGS, the Southern 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 jasminearum WO, the Ash Sphinx

Larvae feed on ash in the Fraxinus genus. Syringa and Ulmus have also been reported.

Note the black anal horn.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth
Note the solid black horn and dark spiracular rings. In addition to the white oblique lines, there are fainter white rings, especially on the back.

I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter it.

Manduca rustica WO, the Rustic Sphinx

Note the green horn, raised white bumps and strong dark lines anterior to the white ones.

Manduca sexta DSSENA, the Carolina Sphinx

Note the red horn and black dots anterior to the white oblique lines.

If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

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 DSSENA, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx

Note pale blue horn and the creamy-white stripes on head. The yellow form has a red horn. 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 gordius DSSENA, the Apple Sphinx

Larval hosts are apple (Malus), sweetfern (Myrica), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), white spruce (Picea glauca), American larch (Larix laricina), and alder (Alnus).

Sphinx kalmiae DSSENA, 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 DSSENA, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx

This one is reported from Richmond and from northeastern New Jersey.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis DSSENA, 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 DSSENA, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
This moth is not officially recorded in Burlington County. It is fond of poplars and willows.

Paonias astylus WO, the Huckleberry Sphinx

Blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), cherries (Prunus) and willows (Salix) are the favorites as larval foodplants.

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

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 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:

Erinnyis ello USGS, the Ello Sphinx

Larvae feed on papaya (Carica papaya), Cnidoscolus angustidens, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), guava (Psidium species) and saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina). Manilkara bahamensis, Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia) and Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla) are also hosts.
Nice socks! Larvae show considerable variation.

Hemaris thysbe DSSENA, 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.

Hemaris diffinis DSSENA, 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 WO, the Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing
Hemaris gracilis is distinguished from similar species by a pair of red-brown bands on the undersides of the thorax, which varies from green to yellow-green dorsally and sometimes brown with white underneath. They have a red abdomen. unlikely

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon DSSENA, 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 fasciatus WO, the Banded Sphinx
Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose) and other plants in the evening primrose family. This hornless larva is highly variable.

Look for large, dark spiracular circles and a dark line in the center of the back. See image at bottom of this page.

Eumorpha pandorus DSSENA, 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.

Eumorpha vitis USGS, the Vine Sphinx
Eumorpha vitis vitis larvae feed upon grape foliage (Vitis) and other vines (Cissus): Cissus pseudosicyoides and Cissus rhombifolia and Cissus sicycoides. I suspect there would be a brown form.

Note five, smooth, narrow, oblique white lines.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis DSSENA, 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.

Cautethia grotei WO, the Grote's Sphinx. Rare in U.S., but there are sightings (mostly of adult moths) in the east from Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Larvae feed on David's milkberry/snowberry (Chiococca alba) in the madder family (Rubiaceae) and have also been found on black torch (Erithalis fruiticosa) and Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).

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.

Deidamia inscriptum DSSENA, the Lettered Sphinx

Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.

The alternating yellow and greyish-green rings across the back distinguish this larva.

Hyles gallii DSSENA, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

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

Hyles lineata DSSENA, 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.

Hemaris thysbe, August 5, 2006, Staten Island, Richmond Co., N. Y., courtesy of Brian Madigan.




Use your browser "Back" button to return to the previous page.

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.