Central Texas
Sphingidae Larvae

Eumorpha vitis, Austin, Texas, September 19, 2005, courtesy of Melody Lytle.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Mike Quinn who sent me many images of Sphingidae larvae from Texas. Mike suggested a thumbnail pictoral checklist for larvae, so here it is!

Many thanks also to Melody Lytle who has sent me many outstanding images of Sphingidae larvae. Melody has also sent me many images of trees/shrubs/vines/flowers from her area in Travis County. They are posted to Melody Lytle Host Plant Index

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

Seventy-five Sphingidae species are listed for Texas on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in the central region. It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the moths you are likely to encounter.

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.

Many thanks to Valerie Bugh who provides this beautiful image of a fourth instar Erinnyis lassauxii larva.

E. lassauxii seems to be rather more common in Austin than usual this year. Dan Hardy saw an adult in mid-Aug. and Barbara Ribble had an adult at her home on Aug. 20. We saw another adult on Aug. 30 at the LBJ Wildflower Center. Someone sent a photo of a mature caterpillar from north Austin on July 24 (feeding on oxypetalum). The attached photo is from Sept. 1 at Zilker Preserve, where there were several caterpillars feeding on very wilted talayote. This is the same location where I found a mature caterpillar in late Nov. 2009 (which eclosed in mid-Dec.). Barbara is raising one of the caterpillars and it already molted and lost its tail."

Many thanks to Sarah D. Grubb who sends the following image and commentary:

Eumorpha vitis, 12 miles east of Austin, TX.,
October 7, 2013, courtesy of Sarah D. Grubb

Sarah writes, "I was gathering my tortoise from the back yard to inside my house to keep him warm for the night, and I brushed upon a pair of these guys hanging out together on the poison oak vine growing on my back fence. ....

"Enclosed is a pic of the two that I found. One is lighter than the other slightly, and their excrement looks like wet withered, decomposing leaves in small, wet, loose pellets.. did not know if you knew that."

I reply, " Thanks for image and commentary. The wet stool might indicate they are clearing their guts in preparation for underground pupation."

Please also send your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent on-line resource which has replaced USGS.

Visit Central Texas Sphingidae: Adult Moths

Visit Texas Catocala: Underwing Moths

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, USGS/JB Pink-spotted hawkmoth: Convolvulaceae family: Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato); Solanaceae family: (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants. Also brown form. Look for very large, dark spiracular circles.

Agrius cingulata. Georgetown, Williamson Co., August 25, 2008, Jill Burrows

Ceratomia amyntor USGS, Elm Sphinx, Four-horned Sphinx: Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), cherry (Prunus). Both green and brown forms. Four diagnostic horns near head.

Ceratomia catalpae WO, Catalpa Sphinx: Gregarious on Catalpa species (Catalpa bignoniodes, C. speciosa) in Bignoniaceae family, skeletonizing foliage. Mostly white in early instars. generally more eastern species

Ceratomia hageni USGS, Hagen's Sphinx, Osage Orange Sphinx: Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), and they have a granulous appearance with variable amounts of purple along the oblique white stripes.

Ceratomia undulosa USGS, Waved Sphinx: Fraxinus, Ligustrum, Quercus, Crataegus, Chionanthus virginicus. Spiracular ovals are decidedly red, anal horn off-white to pinkish laterally.

Dolba hyloeus WO/MVB, Pawpaw Sphinx: Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), littleleaf sweetfern (Myrica aspleniifolia), possum haw (Ilex decidua), inkberry (Ilex glabra), Tall Gallberry Holly (Ilex coriacea). Ilex verticellata in Quebec. generally more eastern species

Dolba hyloeus on Ilex decidua, Kendall County, May 20, 2010, Mike Van Buskirk

Isoparce cupressi USGS, Cypress, Baldcypress Sphinx. Baldcypress needles (Taxodium distichum) at night and pupate in shallow underground burrows.

Lintneria eremitoides USGS. Sage (Salvia species). Lamiaceae: Salvia (Sage), Mentha (Mints), Monarda (Beebalm), Hyptis (Bushmints); Verbenaceae: Verbena, Lantana camara (shrub verbenas or lantanas). Most likely to discover larvae feeding in evening or after dark.

Lintneria geminus USGS, Gemmed Sphinx Moth:

Larval hosts are unknown to me. Sorry, no larval image is available at this time.

Lintneria istar WO, Istar Sphinx Salvia (Sage), Mentha (Mints), Monarda (Beebalm) and Hyptis (Bushmints); Verbenaceae: Verbena and Lantana camara (shrub verbenas or lantanas).

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS/JB, Five-spotted Hawkmoth: Tomato Hornworms: Black horn at end of abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, other plants in nightshade family (Solanaceae). Also very beautiful brown form. See bottom of page.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS, Five-spotted Hawkmoth: Tomato Hornworms: Black horn at end of abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, other plants in nightshade family (Solanaceae). Also very beautiful brown form. See bottom of page.

Manduca quinquemaculatus, Georgetown, Williamson County, Jill Burrows.

Manduca rustica USGS/CV/MS-M, Rustic Sphinx: Numerous white nodules on top of thorax and seven pairs of oblique, blue-gray stripes along side of body. Horn: white at base, blue-gray at tip. Many hosts.

Manduca rustica, Austin, Texas, June 24, 2006, Chandra Volkmar.
Manduca rustica Georgetown (Williamson), Texas, September 13, 2007, Martha Stroud-Merry.

Manduca sexta USGS, Carolina Sphinx: Tobacco Hornworms, red-tipped horn, true gluttons, feed on tobacco, tomato, occasionally potato, pepper crops, other plants in nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Manduca sexta, Travis County, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall. larva care

Paratrea plebeja USGS, Plebeian Sphinx: Common trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans), Florida yellow-trumpet (Tecoma stans), lilac (Syringa species), passionflower (Passiflora species). Horn blue, preceded by yellow dash.

Sphinx dollii USGS, Doll's sphinx: Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) and other juniper species.

Sphinx libocedrus USGS, Incense Cedar Sphinx: New Mexican forestiera (Forestiera neomexicana), Forestiera angustifolia, little leaf ash (Fraxinus gooddingii) in Oleaceae family. Green and dark forms; larvae tend to darken just before pupation.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis FS/ML/SA/ USGS, Walnut Sphinx: Walnut and butternut (Juglans), hickory (Carya), alder (Alnus), beech (Fagus), hazelnut (Corylus), hop-hornbeam (Ostrya).

Amorpha juglandis, Austin, May 13, 2010, courtesy of Suvi Aika.

Pachysphinx modesta USGS, Modest Sphinx, Poplar Sphinx: Larvae feed on poplars and cottonwood.

Paonias excaecata WO, Blinded Sphinx: Willows, birches, cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada. generally more eastern species

Smerinthus jamaicensis USGS, Twin-spotted Sphinx: 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:

Aellopos clavipes USGS, Aellopos Sphinx. Rubiaceae (madder) family. Randia rhagocarpa, Randia monantha, Randia aculeata, Guettarda macrosperma, Genipa americana. Probably only further south.

Aellopos fadus USGS, Fadus Sphinx: Rubiaceae (madder) family, including Genipa americana, Alibertia edulis, Randia species. At least two color morphs, green form, much darker, reddish-brown form. rare

Aellopos titan USGS, Titan Sphinx: Seven year apple, Casasia clusiifolia, common buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, white indigoberry, Randia mitis. Randia monantha, Randia aculeata, Albizzia adinocephala, Randia grandifolia, madder family (Rubiaceae). rare

Erinnyis ello USGS, Ello Sphinx: Papaya (Carica papaya), Cnidoscolus angustidens, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), guava (Psidium species), saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina). Manilkara bahamensis, Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia), Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla). Nice socks! Variable.

Erinnyis lassauxii WO, Dominican Sphinx: Papaya (Carica papaya), Manihot esculenta, various plants (Macroscepis obovata) in milkweed family. might be present in southern portions of this region.

Erinnyis obscura, Obscure Sphinx, USGS: Rauvolfia ligustrina, Rauvolfia tetraphylla, Stemmadenia obovata, Philibertia, Cynanchum, papaya (Carica papaya), Asclepiadaceae, Blepharodon mucronatum, White vine (Sarcostemma clausum), Morrenia odorata. rare

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next two species.

Hemaris thysbe WO, Hummingbird Clearwing: There is also an orangey-pink prepupal form. The lateral line runs from S1 to blue horn. Viburnum, related plants. generally more eastern species

Hemaris diffinis USGS/ML/JB, Snowberry Clearwing: Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum), dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera).Horn: black; yellow base.

Hemaris diffinis larva, April 20, 2006, Austin, courtesy of Melody Lytle.
Hemaris diffinis, Georgetown, Williamson County, October 18, 2002, Jill Burrows.

Pachylia ficus, Fig Sphinx, USGS: Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea). Ficus carica, Ficus microcarpa, Ficus religiosa, Ficus pumila, Ficus gamelleira, Ficus prinoides, Ficus pumila, Artocarpus integrifolia. Extreme variability Images usually as per the upper image.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS, Achemon Sphinx: Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), other vines, ivies (Ampelopsis). Both light (green) form and darker (tan/brown) form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.

Eumorpha anchemolus USGS, Achemon Sphinx: Cissus erosa, Vitis are reported hosts in Brazil. Not likely to be seen in Texas. Also green form. rare stray

Eumorpha fasciatus USGS, Banded Sphinx: Primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose), other plants in evening primrose family. Hornless, highly variable. Large, dark spiracular circles, dark line in center of back. See image at bottom of page.

Eumorpha pandorus USGS, Pandorus Sphinx: Grape, Virginia Creeper. Note five large white ovals. Orangey-brown and green forms also.generally more eastern species

Eumorpha vitis USGS/Amy Smith/ ML/LT/SDG, Vine Sphinx: Grape (Vitis), vines (Cissus): Cissus pseudosicyoides, Cissus rhombifolia, Cissus sicycoides. Probably a brown form. Note five, smooth, narrow, oblique white lines.

Eumorpha vitis, Bulverde near San Antonio, Bexar County, Amy Smith, October 5, 2005
Eumorpha vitis, Austin, Texas, September 19, 2005, courtesy of Melody Lytle.
Eumorpha vitis, Converse, Bexar County, November 2008, Lisa Tingle.
Eumorpha vitis, 12 miles east of Austin, TX., October 7, 2013, Sarah D. Grubb

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis USGS, Nessus Sphinix: Virginia creeper, Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), cayenne pepper (Capsicum). Larvae are green until the final instar.

Darapsa choerilus USGS, Azalea Sphinx: Azalea, Viburnum. Progress very rapidly. Larva, left, on Viburnum cassinoides readying to pupate. Color change from green to light burgundy-brown indicates imminent change.

Darapsa myron USGS, Virginia Creeper Sphinx, Grapevine Sphinx: If you have foodplants indicated ine common names, you probably have myron. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Grape (Vitis), Ampelopsis, Viburnum.

Hyles lineata USGS/ML, White-lined Sphinx: Highly varied. Willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), Fuschia. Red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Hyles lineata, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, May 29, 2010 Melody Lytle.

Hyles lineata: larva sighting, Cedar Park near Austin, Texas, May 3, 2006, by Katherine Green who writes, "I think it is Hyles lineata, but from the other pictures I am not sure. It is making a meal of my Pink Primroses. I watched for a bit and it steard clear of the grass, red yucca and wandering jew."

Proserpinus guarae USGS, Proud Sphinx: Onagraceae, including evening primrose (Oenothera), gaura (Gaura), willow weed (Epilobium). rare

Proserpinus juanita USGS, Juanita Sphinx: Larvae feed on (Onagraceae) including evening primrose (Oenothera), gaura (Gaura), willow weed (Epilobium). rare

Sphecodina abbottii WO, Abbott's Sphinx: Larvae feed at night on grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), hide on the bark during day. Virginia creeper. Also dark form without green patches. Note "raised eye", replacing anal horn. generally more eastern species

Xylophanes tersa USGS/JB/JA, Tersa Sphinx: Borreria, Catalpa and Manettia spp. and Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra), starclusters (Pentas species), joe-pie weed, Hamelia patens, Hedoydis nigricans. Green form may be more common.

Xylophanes tersa, Georgetown, Williamson County, October 18, 2002, Jill Burrows.
Xylophanes tersa, Austin, Travis County, October 5, 2009, Jacque Austin.

Eumorpha vitis, Austin, Texas, September 19, 2005, courtesy of Melody Lytle.

Visit Eumorpha vitis fourth and fifth instars, Converse, Bexar County, November 2008, courtesy of Lisa Tingle.

Eumorpha fasciatus, Austin, Texas, Kizer Golf Course, November 2, 2005,
courtesy of Scott Young via Mike Quinn.

Many of the Sphingidae larvae are highly variable within the species. Most darken considerably just before pupation, especially before the onset of cooler weather.

Hemaris diffinis, April 20, 2006 in the Barton Springs greenbelt, Austin (Travis County),
courtesy of Melody Lytle.

Manduca rustica, Austin, Texas, June 24, 2006, courtesy of Chandra Volkmar.

Amorpha juglandis, Austin, Texas, October 31, 2006, courtesy of Jill Posey.

Jill writes,
You are my last hope in identifying my mystery caterpillar. I suspect it is a walnut sphinx, except I've never seen a one so red. Am I way off?
"Caterpillar about 2" long, on a concrete step near yaupon and azalea beds, October 30, 2006, Austin TX."

Yes, it is a walnut sphinx larva. Many Sphingidae larva get quite dark as they ready themselves for pupation.

Manduca quinquemaculata San Antonio, Texas, courtesy of Larry Gilbert via Mike Quinn

Sphinx dollii, just north of Austin, Texas, courtesy of David T. Anderson.

David writes, "I live in central Texas, just north of Austin. I would like some help here. Nobody seems to know what the name of this Sphinx moth I found is. I picked up the caterpillar off my driveway. It looked like a dwarf Sphinx caterpillar. It turned into a tiny Sphinx moth. It was just under an inch long. I've never seen one like this before. Do you know what it is?"

David's image of the Sphinx dollii larva gives a nice perspective on the size of this small Sphinx. The caterpillar had probably left nearby foliage in search of some soft earth in which to pupate.

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Hyles lineata fifth instar, Burnet County, Texas, May 19, 2009,
The host plant is Gaura, probably Gaura calcicola, courtesy of Steve Schwartzman.

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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