Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, October 2, 2008
Updated as per personal communication with Jim Carney (Hemaris diffinis larva, Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, September 24, 2009), September 24, 2009; ongoing

Sullivan County, New York
Sphingidae: Larval Thumbnails

Sphinx kalmiae on lilac, Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, New York,
September 26, 2008, courtesy of Jim Carney.

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 quinquemacualtus, 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 during the day.

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 Sullivan 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 Jim Carney of Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, New York, who sent me the images of the Sphinx kalmiae larva at the top and bottom of this page.

Jim writes, "Found this cute little green guy munching away on the leaves of my Lilac tree, Wurtsboro, New York 12790 on 9/26/08. It was in the tree for 2 days and then gone? I have a a National Audubon guide but could not find it in the guide book under caterpillars, one of the Audubon birders thinks it might be a Fawn Sphinx Moth Caterpillar. Any help would be great. It was about 2 1/2 - 3 inches."

I replied, "It is Sphinx kalmiae, the Laurel Sphinx (aka Fawn Sphinx). I would like permission to post image, credited to you, on a webpage?? Please let me know in which county Wurtsboro lies.

"The caterpillars of the Sphinx moths (hawk moths) leave the foliage and host plant entirely, excavate subterranean chambers and pupate in same. They late summer/fall brood caterpillars spend the winter underground in the pupal stage and then emerge as moths the following spring/summer."

On September 24, 2009, Jim sent me the following image of Hemaris diffinis.

Hemaris diffinis fifth instar, Wurtzboro, Sullivan County, New York,
September 24, 2009, courtesy of Jim Carney.

Manduca sexta fourth instar, Wurtzboro, Sullivan County, New York,
August 6, 2011, courtesy of Jim Carney.

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 Sullivan County (Six are reported on U.S.G.S. as of Ocotber 2, 2008). 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 Sullivan County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present. A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website (now BAMONA) 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:

Ceratomia amyntor WO, 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 undulosa USGS, 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 WO, 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 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.

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.

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 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 sexta WO/, 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.

Manduca sexta fourth instar, Wurtzboro, August 6, 2011, courtesy of Jim Carney.

Paratrea plebeja WO, the Plebeian Sphinx

Larvae feed at night, hiding on the underside of stems during the day. Preferred hosts are common trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans), Florida yellow-trumpet (Tecoma stans), lilac (Syringa species), and passionflower (Passiflora species).

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 USGS, 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 WO, 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 JC, 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 kalmiae on lilac, Wurtsboro, September 26, 2008, Jim Carney.

Sphinx luscitiosa USGS, the Canadian Sphinx or Clemen's Sphinx

This one is reported from Richmond and from northeastern New Jersey into southern Canada.

Sphinx poecila WO, the Poecila Sphinx

If you have blueberries in the woods, then you probably have the Poecila Sphinx.

The green form is more common.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, 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 WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
This moth is officially recorded in Delaware County. It is fond of poplars and willows.

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 cerisyi WO, Cerisy's Sphinx; 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 inverted "V".

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:

Hemaris thysbe USGS, 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 WO/JC, 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 diffinis, Wurtzboro, September 24, 2009, courtesy of Jim Carney.

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.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, 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 pandorus WO, 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.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, 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.

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 WO, 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 WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

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

Hyles lineata 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 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.




Sphinx kalmiae on lilac, Wurtsboro, Sullivan County, New York,
September 26, 2008, courtesy of Jim Carney.

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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