Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Lisa Robinson, October 2005
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, July 22, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with Karin Moss (Manduca rustica, Alexandria, June 20, 2014); June 21, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Brent Steury (Sphinx franckii, Turkey Run Farm, July 1, 2014); July 1, 2014
Updated as per personal communication with Laura Beaty (Eumorpha pandorus, McLean, July 19, 2014); July 19, 2014

Fairfax County, and Alexandria, Virginia
Sphingidae

Agrius cingulata, Fairfax, Virginia, October 9, 2005, courtesy of Lisa Robinson.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Lisa Robinson who sent me the image of Agrius cingulata at the top of this page. Special thanks also goes to Duncan Champney for the Hemaris diffinis image at the bottom of this page.

Lisa writes, "Bill,

"Thanks to your site we were able to identify this moth that we found in our yard. We knew it was a sphinx moth, but were unsure of the specific species. We even took the moth over to a local botanical park, and were unable to find it in their field guides. Thanks to your online guide we now know what we were looking at.

"We found this specimen in our yard in Vienna, Virginia, which is in Fairfax county outside of Washington, DC. We found him today, October 9th, 2005. I am enclosing some pictures we took of the moth."

Thirty-two Sphingidae species are listed for Virginia on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Fairfax County (Six 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 Fairfax 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.

Many thanks to Brent Steury, Natural Resources Program Manager, Turkey Run Park Headquarters, McLean, VA, who provides the following image:

Sphinx franckii, Turkey Run Park, McLean, Fairfax County, Virginia,
July 1, 2014, courtesy of Brent Steury.

Many thanks to Laura Beaty who writes, "Thank you for all the work you put into this incredible site. I think I found the name of this moth (Pandorus Sphinx) from your site. The vine is adjacent to a trellis of VA creeper."

Laura sends the Eumorpha pandorus image below.

Eumorpha pandorus, McLean, Fairfax County, Virginia,
July 18, 2014, courtesy of Laura Beaty.

Visit Fairfax County Sphingidae; Larvae (caterpillars).

Visit Virginia Catocala: Underwing Moths.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, Lisa Robinson 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).

Ceratomia catalpae USGS, 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, 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.

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.

Lapara bombycoides WO, the Northern Pine Sphinx: If you have pines, you might have this species. It flies on P.E.I.

less likely than next species

Lapara coniferarum 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.

Lintneria eremitus WO, the Hermit Sphinx: The upperside of the forewing is gray-brown with wavy lines, black dashes, and one or two small white spots near the center of the costa. The upperside of the hindwing is black with two white bands and a triangular black patch at the base. Note the golden hair on the thorax.

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 quinquemaculatus 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.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, Wild Cherry Sphinx: We have them on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently as I see the other Sphingidae.

Sphinx franckii WO/CS, Franck's Sphinx Moth: The costal half of the forewings are grey, but the posterior portion is a distinctive warm yellowish-brown; the boundary between these two areas is marked with a series of dark diagonal streaks. Similar to S. kalmiae but lacks the dark bar along the fw inner margin.

Sphinx franckii, Turkey Run Park, McLean, Fairfax County, Virginia, July 1, 2014, Brent Steury.

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.

Sphinx kalmiae WO, the Laurel Sphinx: The lower forewings are predominantly brownish-yellow with a fairly wide dark bar along the inner margin. At rest the wings hug the body, giving the moth a long slender look.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, 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. Female is different.

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx

They are common on Prince Edward Island, but are unlikely for Fairfax County.

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 WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx: Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide distribution and is probably common in Frederick County.

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:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe USGS/WO, 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 D. Champney/ USGS, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
Adults mimic bumblebees; quite variable. Wings: basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases, edges. Thorax: golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. Abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments before tip.

Hemaris diffinis, Great Falls, May 12, 2005, "2004 Duncan Champney"

Hemaris gracilis WO, unlikely, the Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing: This day-flying moth is less common and has not been recorded in Virginia, but has been seen in southern N.J. and in eastern South Carolina and Florida. unlikely

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 pandorus WO/LB, 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.

Eumorpha pandorus, McLean, July 18, 2014, Laura Beaty

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, 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.

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 USGS, 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.

unlikely

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 WO, the White-lined Sphinx: This species has strong migrating tendancies from much further south. There are records from New Hampshire and Maine.

Sphecodina abbottii USGS, 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 may establish itself in Frederick County periodically.

Hemaris diffinis, Great Falls, Fairfax County, Virginia, May 12, 2005,
"2004 Duncan Champney. Used with permission."

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.

Eggs of many North American species are offered during the spring and summer. Occasionally summer Actias luna and summer Antheraea polyphemus cocoons are available. Shipping to US destinations is done from with in the US.

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