Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Molly Kuehn, June, 2007
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, January 23, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Jim Downey (Des Moines, early June 2013); June 25, 2013

King County, Washington


Smerinthus ophthalmica, Seattle Washington, May 31, 2007, courtesy of Molly Kuehn.

Seventeen Sphingidae species are listed for Washington. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in King County (only three on USGS) in southwestern Washington. It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the moths you have encountered.

The Cascades seem to be a barrier to some of the more eastern species.

A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported in USGS and/or in Moths of Western North America, #2. Distribution of Sphingidae of Western North America, revised, an excellent little booklet available through Paul Opler.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in King County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is or might be present.

Please help me develop this list with improved, documented accuracy by sending sightings (species, date, location), preferably with an image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

This page is dedicated to Molly Kuehn who sent me the image of Smerinthus cerisyi at the top of the page.

Molly writes, "I found this moth by my door yesterday (05-31-07) in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood. I was looking to see what kind of moth he was and ran across your info asking for data. Here are a few pictures for you. Hope this helps with your project."

Many thanks to Jim Downey who sends the following image:

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Des Moines, King County, Washington,
June 3, 2013, courtesy of Jim Downey.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

This species is possibly present (unreported) and larvae feed on tomatoes and go by the common name of "Tomato Hornworms".

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest. I only see them occasionally on P.E.I. despite visiting lights frequently.

Sphinx perelegans WO, the Elegant Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing is dark grey to black with a paler costa and pale area from the base to the wing's centre.
Prefered habitats include montane woodlands and mixed chaparral-type vegetation.

Sphinx vashti WO, the Snowberry Sphinx

The upperside of the forewing has a narrow black subterminal line bordered by a white inverted V-shaped line on the outside, and a black line running inwards from the apex of the wing.
It is most often found in montane woodlands and along streamcourses.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis WO, the Big Poplar Sphinx

This one is quite similar to Pachysphinx modesta, with modesta being smaller and darker.

If you've got willows or poplars nearby, then you probably have occidentalis in your immediate area.

Paonias excaecata WO/HD, the Blinded Sphinx

The grey-blue eyespot (without a black center pupil) of the hindwing gives this species its name. Larvae feed on birches, willows, cherries and oaks.

The outer edge of the forewings is quite scalloped.

Paonias excaecata, Kirkland, July 14, 2011, Harriette Dorkin

Smerinthus opthalmica MPNw

Larvae feed on poplars, aspen and willows. Note different shape of double arced forewing pm line compared to the straighter pm line of cerisyi, which it replaces in WA. S. ophthalmica has smoother scalloping of the fw outer margin.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Seattle, May 31, 2007, Molly Kuehn
Smerinthus ophthalmica, Des Moines, early June, 2013, Jim Downey.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thetis BAMONA, the Thetis Clearwing

Hemaris thetis is a very variable species, but almost always the abdomen sports contrasting black and yellow hairs, the ventral surface being quite black. The legs also tend to be quite dark and there is a black mask running across the eye and along the sides of the thorax.

Macroglossini tribe:

Hyles gallii WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is not reported from King County, but if you have Gallium or Epilobium, you probably have localized populations of this species.

Hyles lineata DM, the White-lined Sphinx

This species is very widespread. It can be seen flying during the day, into the evening and also at night.
The highly variable larvae are often found in people's gardens.

Hyles lineata, Dave McNeese, (10+) Fall City, May 13, 2005 nectaring at flowering Rhodes; 8:00 to 10:00 pm.

Proserpinus clarkiae WO, Clark's Sphinx

This day flier, April-June, prefers oak woodland and pine-oak woodland in foothills. Moths nectar at a variety of flowers in the afternoon.

Proserpinus flavofasciata USGS, the Yellow-banded Day Sphinx
This day flier is officially reported from King and in southwestern British Columbia in meadows near coniferous forests.

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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