Inspired by and dedicated to Lonnie Huffman, September 2007
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, April 14, 2013
Updated as per personal communication with Jamie Korman (Enyo lugubris), April 14, 2013

Richland County, South Carolina
Sphingidae

Hemaris thysbe, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina,
September 3, 2007, courtesy of Lonnie Huffman.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Lonnie Huffman of York County, South Carolina. Lonnie provided the Hemaris thysbe pictures and sighting in Richland County.

Lonnie had identified the moth as Hemaris thysbe, but I was not sure from the intitial image that he sent if the day flying sphingid was Hemaris thysbe of Hemaris gracilis.

Fortunately Lonnie was able to send some additional images, and I was able to confirm his identification.

Hemaris thysbe, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina,
September 3, 2007, courtesy of Lonnie Huffman.

In successive emails Lonnie writes, "A few weeks ago I took what I think is a rather nice photo of a hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe). I didnít know what it was until a page on your website helped me identify it. Thank you so much for putting the page out there. It has some very interesting information.

"I checked out your South Carolina page and the page about Hemaris gracilis. Gosh, they are very similar! I wonder if you can tell them which one I photographed if you see the other photos I took that day of the same specimen. The other photos I took didnít come out nice like the one I showed you, but they may allow you to see what you need to see to determine which one it is. If you feel like trying to identify it, here are the other photos I took that day. If you click on the photos here, youíll be taken to the original high-resolution, unaltered photo that I took.

"Hey, can you tell if my moth is a male or female? I looked at the photos at the bottom of your thysbe page and guessed that mine was a male because of the wide lobster tail. Was I right?"

The whitish legs and absence of a red band running from the eye to just below the wings eliminated the possibility of Hemaris gracilis, confirming Lonnie's initial impression. I am not sure if the moth depicted is a male or a female.

In Lonnie's second image you can see a partial coil at the end of the feeding tube which is projecting outward from just below the moth's head. When the moth is at rest, this tube is tightly coiled like a whip, and it is tucked away amongst the off-white hairs on the underside of the thorax.

Forty Sphingidae species are listed for South Carolina on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Richland County (only Amphion floridensis is reported on U.S.G.S., as of October 2007). 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 "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Richland 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.

John Snyder has provided some sightings and those species confirmed by him are followed by his intitials.

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, JS 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 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). generally a more northerly species

Ceratomia catalpae WO, the 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 WO, the 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 The Giant Sphinx, migrant stray

This moth is a very strong flier, but would only make its way to Richland County as a rare stray.

There are several reports from South Carolina.

Dolba hyloeus WO, the 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 WO, 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 WO, the Northern Pine Sphinx

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

Lapara coniferarum WO, 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 WO, 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 quinquemaculata WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

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

Manduca rustica WO, 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 WO, the 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 WO, the 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 WO, 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, the 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 WO, 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. See the file for the female; she is different.

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
This moth is generally a more northerly species, but has been observed to the south in Charleston County so may be present. They are common on Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada.

Paonias astylus WO, 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 WO, 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, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is present in Richland County (JS).

I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported as far south as Florida.

Smerinthus jamaicensis WO, 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, WO/JK

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.

Enyo lugubris, Columbia, April 13, 2013, Jamie Korman

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, WO 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 LH, 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 WO, the Snowberry Clearwing or 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, the 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, the 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 WO, the Banded Sphinx
The upperside of the moth is 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 WO, the 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. stray

Eumorpha pandorus WO, the 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.

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 WO, 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 WO, the 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 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.

Darapsa versicolor WO, the Hydrangea Sphinx

If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you might have the Hydrangea Sphinx.

Deidamia inscriptum WO, 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, 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 WO, 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 WO, the Tersa Sphinx

This moth is much more common to the south. It is a strong migrant, however, and does establish itself to the south in Charleston County, at least periodically. It might also breed in Richland County.

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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