Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, May 17, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Randy Busing (Eumorpha pandorus, West Ashley, May 16, 2009); May 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Renee R. (Eumorpha pandorus, Mt. Pleasant, July 22, 2014); July 22, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Randy Busing (Eumorpha pandorus, West Ashley, May 16, 2009); May 2009

Charleston County, South Carolina

Manduca quinquemaculatus, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to John Snyder who provided extensive Sphingidae sightings for Charleston County.

Forty Sphingidae species are listed for South Carolina on the U.S.G.S. website (now BAMONA). Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Charleston County (Twenty-nine species 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.

Caterpillars of most species are depicted in the individual species files.

A "JS" after the species name indicates that the species has been confirmed for Charleston County by John Snyder.

Many thanks to Randy Busing for this image of an Eumorpha pandorus from West Ashley, May 15, 2009.

Eumorpha pandorus, West Ashley, Charleston County, South Carolina,
May 16, 2009, courtesy of Randy Busing.

Eumorpha pandorus, Mt. Pleasant, Charleston County, South Carolina,
July 22, 2014, courtesy of Renee R.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Charleston 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 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.

Visit South Carolina Catocala: Underwing Moths.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, JS/USGS Pink-spotted hawkmoth, stray: This species is a strong migrant and adults nectar from deep-throated flowers including moonflower (Calonyction aculeatum), morning glory (Convolvulus), honey suckle (Lonicera) and petunia (Petunia species).

Ceratomia amyntor JS, 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). generally a more northerly species

Ceratomia catalpae JS/USGS, Catalpa Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is yellowish brown with no white markings, but there are indistinct black lines and dashes. The cell spot is gray with a black outline. The larvae feed in large groups and are much more spectacular than the moths.
Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia undulosa JS/USGS, Waved Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is pale brownish gray with wavy black and white lines and a black-outlined white cell spot. The upperside of the hindwing is gray with diffuse darker bands.

Cocytius antaeus, WO Giant Sphinx: migrant stray: This moth is a very strong flier, but would only make its way to Charleston County as a rare stray.

There are several reports from South Carolina.

Dolba hyloeus JS/USGS, Pawpaw Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is dark brown with a dusting of white scales. Some moths have patches of reddish or yellowish brown on the wings.

Isoparce cupressi JS/USGS, the Cypress or Baldcypress Sphinx: Isoparce cupressi, the rare Cypress Sphinx, flies in Cypress swamps in Georgia (specimen type locality), and from Maryland to Texas. It has been reported in Mexico.

Lapara bombycoides USGS, Northern Pine Sphinx: This moth is reported from Charleston County.

If you have pines, you might have this species, but it is generally a more northerly species.

Lapara coniferarum JS/USGS, the Southern Pine Sphinx: The upperside is of the forewing is gray with two (sometimes one or three) black dashes near the wing center; other markings are usually diffuse. The upperside of the hindwing is a uniform brown-gray. If you've got pines, this species is likely present.

Manduca jasminearum JS/USGS, the Ash Sphinx: The upperside of forewing is gray to grayish brown with a black line running from the middle of the costa to the middle of the outer margin; the line may be broken near the margin. There is a splash of brown around the cell spot.

Manduca quinquemaculatus JS/USGS, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth: I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter Manduca quinquemaculata.

Manduca rustica JS/USGS, the Rustic Sphinx: Look for three large yellow spots on each side of the abdomen. The upperside of the forewing is yellowish brown to deep chocolate brown with a dusting of white scales and zigzagged black and white lines.

Manduca sexta JS/USGS, Carolina Sphinx: If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered Manduca sexta in the larval stage.

Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.

Paratrea plebeja JS/USGS, Plebeian Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is gray with indistinct black and white markings. There is a series of black dashes from the base to the tip, and a small white cell spot.

Sphinx chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen. questionable, generally more northerly

Sphinx franckii JS/USGS, Franck's Sphinx Moth:

The outer margins of the forewings are slightly concave in the male, but not in the female. The costal half of the forewings are grey, but the posterior portion is a distinctive warm yellowish-brown.

Sphinx gordius WO, Apple Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing ranges from brown with black borders through brownish gray with paler borders to pale gray with no borders. Dashes, submarginal line, and cell spot are usually weak.
generally a more northerly species

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis JS/USGS, the Walnut Sphinx: The adults are also highly variable; sometimes wings of an individual may be all one color or may have several colors, ranging from pale to dark brown, and may have a white or pink tinge. Patterns range from faint to pronounced. The female is different.

Pachysphinx modesta JS, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx: This moth is generally a more northerly species, but has been observed in Charleston County. They are common on Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada.

Paonias astylus JS/USGS, the Huckleberry Sphinx: Paonias astylus flies from March-September in Florida and from April-September in Louisiana. There is one brood northward from June-August. This appears to be an uncommon species.

Paonias excaecata JS/USGS, the Blinded Sphinx: Named for the dull grey-blue spot (minus dark pupil) in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution in the eastern United States. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Paonias myops JS/USGS, the Small-eyed Sphinx: Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is present in Charleston County. I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Smerinthus jamaicensis JS, the Twin-spotted Sphinx: This moth is widely distributed and fairly common. Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Enyo lugubris, the Mournful Sphinx, JS/USGS: The body and wings are dark brown. The forewing has a large black patch covering most of the outer half of the wing. There is a pale tan cell spot (dark inner pupil), and a fairly straight median line to the inside of the cell spot.

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, JS/USGS stray: During the night adults nectar at flowers, including bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) and Asystasia gangetica beginning at dusk. July and August are flight times in the southern states.

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe JS, 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.

Hemaris diffinis JS, Snowberry Clearwing; Bumblebee Moth: Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable. 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 before the tip.

Hemaris gracilis JS, Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing: This day-flying moth is less common, but has been seen in southern N.J. and in eastern South Carolina and Florida.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, Achemon Sphinx: Larvae get large and feed on grape vines and Virginia creeper. Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.

Eumorpha fasciatus JS/USGS, Banded Sphinx: Dark pinkish brown. Each forewing has a lighter brown band along the costa, and sharp pinkish white bands and streaks. Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose) and other plants in the evening primrose family.

Eumorpha intermedia USGS, Intermediate Sphinx: The Intermediate Sphinx Moth, (Eumorpha intermedia), (Wing span: 3 9/16 - 3 7/8 inches (9 - 9.8 cm)), flies in lower austral and subtropical lowlands in North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Texas.

Eumorpha pandorus JS/USGS/RB/RR, Pandorus Sphinx: If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you probably have this species. I often get asked to identify larvae from areas not previously reported.

Eumorpha pandorus, West Ashley, May 15, 2009, Randy Busing
Eumorpha pandorus, Mt. Pleasant, July 22, 20-14, Renee R.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis JS/USGS, 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.

Cautethia grotei USGS, the Grote's Sphinx: This species is rarely recorded in the U.S., but there are sightings in the east from Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. rare

Darapsa choerilus JS/USGS, Azalea Sphinx: The lower wings of this hawkmoth are a solid brownish-orange, matching the body colour. You will often see this species listed as Darapsa pholus, especially in older literature.

Darapsa myron JS/USGS, Virginia Creeper Sphinx; Grapevine Sphinx:

If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this species nearby. The lower wings are orange.

Darapsa versicolor JS/USGS, the Hydrangea Sphinx: If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you might have the Hydrangea Sphinx.

Deidamia inscriptum JS/USGS, the Lettered Sphinx: The moth's outer margin of the forewing is deeply scalloped. The upperside is light brown with dark brown markings. There is a small black and white spot near the tip. Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.

Hyles lineata JS/USGS, the White-lined Sphinx: This species has strong migrating tendancies from much further south. There are records from as far north as New Hampshire and Maine.

Sphecodina abbottii JS, the Abbott's Sphinx: This moth is very much under reported across the United States. It is a rapid day flier so is probably not in too many collections. Grape is a popular larval host.

Xylophanes tersa JS/USGS, Tersa Sphinx: This moth is much more common to the south. It is a strong migrant, however, and does establish itself in Charleston County, at least periodically.

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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