Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Candice Keller, September 8, 2011
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 8, 2011
Updated as per BAMONA website, September 8, 2011

Klickitat County, Washington
Sphingidae Larvae

Paonias excaecata or myops??, White Salmon, Klickitat County, Washington,
September 6-7, 2011, courtesy of Candice Keller,
note white parasitoid egg on head.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Candice Keller who sends the image of a Paonias species larva that had been eating plum foliage. It is either Paonias excaecata or Paonias myops. Both would likely be in her area and both show varying amounts of red spottting, although the most common forms are without the spotting. I favour P. excaecata.

Candice writes, "Hi, I was looking up some caterpillars that my husband and I just pulled off of my red flowering plum tree (they were munching away) and was trying to identify them. They look like the lime hawk moths to me -- not for sure though. They are lime green with pinkish red spots, diagonal whitish slashes up their sides and they have a pointy tail. They seem to be about as long as my little pinky, but when stretched out, they get closer to my ring or pointer finger. One is longer than the other and seems to be coated in a dusty white, though it is still the lime green. I have one picture, but I will try to get a better one here in a bit. They did not like being taken off of the branch they were on and tried (what seemed) to bite at my husband -- kind of funny!

"They are very pretty, but I do not want them eating up my poor plum tree I just planted this last spring.

"We do see hummingbird moths here. They are beautiful, but I think they are actually the White Lined Sphinx moth. I have never been able to capture a picture of them. They seem to come out just at dusk and feed on the evening primrose here. They are fast. and do not stay around long, but the markings and colors of the White Lined Sphinx moth seem to be what we are seeing and not the actual Hummingbird Clearwing moth.

"We live in White Salmon, Washington 98672."

Candice did not send a photo with her original email and I reply, "Hi Candice, I have not yet made a Klickitat County Spingidae larval checklist, but I suspect same species that fly in King County also fly in your area so here is larval checklist (pictoral) for King County.

Here is a pictoral checklist for Klickitat County adult Sphingidae.

I would not expect you to have Lime Hawkmoth in Washington as that is a European species. Based on plum as a foodplant, you are probably seeing Sphinx drupiferarum larvae.

Candice sends images with her response and this message:

"Thanks, and they do look like the pictures on your links! I just cannot tell which one for sure. I just read your article with the homeschool mom from Texas that saved the tomato hornworm and read the part about the white spots. one of them has a ton of the white spots and the other has a few. Can I fix them? I did put the caterpillars into a clear plastic container, but did not know that I needed a lid though, so I will find something better for them in the morning. My kids love to do these kind of things. We bring in preying mantis egg sacs when we find them and let them hatch. So the children are excited for a moth. I just hope the spots are not the parasites, and, if they are, what can I do? thank you, candice i tried to pick the clearest pictures. The picture with just the finger pointing up is my husband's and I put my whole hand in. I tried to include the white spots in too. I don't know if you can use any of these photos. They sure are pretty. Thank you for your time."

I reply, "Hi Candice, Both Paonias excaecata and Paonias myops have granulated skin, and your larvae are one of those two species. The granulated skin is defined by large numbers of slightly raised white bumps which appear in a pattern. Most often the larvae of myops and excaecata are without the red spots that your larvae are showing, but I reared about seventy of the Paonias excaecata here this summer and a small percentage also had some red spotting. Myops sometimes also have them, and both species can be found on plum.

"One of the larvae definitely has parasitic eggs on its head and thorax. If the eggs are very fresh and the parasite larvae have not hatched and burrowed into the caterpillar, you can delicately remove them with a pin or needle, being careful not to puncture the caterpillar. If there is a little dark spot on the caterpillar’s skin under the egg, you are too late. The parasitic wasps and flies are harmless to humans, but if you are going to try to rear a couple of these larvae, pick ones without parasite eggs or little black spots where older parasites might have entered.

"Good luck. I wish permission to use images, credited to you, on a Klickitat County page I will create??"

"That is fine to use my photos. Not worried about credit, just glad I got a clear enough shot that you can use. I took about 100 of them. Thanks for all the information. Now, I will be searching for more. I have seen the moths but not the larvae (caterpillars) so it has been a learning lesson for me. I am going to check in the a.m. first thing on the parasites but it is probably too late. Poor things. I will ask my husband to scrape one off carefully. I am not good with any kind of parasites-like ticks. Blah!

"Oh, and I dug up a pupae that was dark brown this last spring in my dad's yard in Trout Lake, WA, and brought it home to hatch for the kids. I don't remember specifically what it looked like, but I know it had the pinks and browns when it hatched. I dig them up all the time in my yard. Just never thought to let them hatch."

The pink and brown ones are probably Paonias excaecata, and yes, you probably have seen Hyles lineata adults nectaring in late afternoon to early evening.

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, Travis County, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

Only seventeen Sphingidae species are listed for Washington on the BAMONA website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Klickitat County (Four are reported on BAMONA as of September 8, 2011). It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the larvae you are likely to encounter. A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in your county, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth with its larvae are present or might be present. I have included many species not on the BAMONA list for Washington; I believe they are or might be present

A "BAMONA" indicates the moth is reported 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.

Please also send your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

The caterpillars are called Tomato Hornworms and each has a black horn at the end of the abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Sphinx chersis WO, the Northern Ash Sphinx or Great Ash Sphinx: The larvae are pale bluish green. The head has a pair of yellow lateral bands meeting at the apex. The oblique, lateral stripes are pale and bordered anteriorly with a darker green. Larval hosts are ash, lilac, privet, cherry, and quaking aspen.doubtful

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night. Larvae have been found on Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts and have been reared to pupation in Michigan on Prunus serotina. Note purple oblique lines.

Sphinx perelegans WO, the Elegant Sphinx: The basic body colour can be either glaucous or apple-green, without the earlier body tubercles. The oblique side stripes are white, edged with purple. The horn is sky blue. The spiracles are pale orange and the anal flap is edged with yellow.

Sphinx vashti BAMONA, the Snowberry Sphinx

Larvae feed on the common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) and on coralberry (S. orbiculatus).

Note the two golden lines of slightly raised bumps, one just behind the head, the other on the thorax.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Pachysphinx occidentalis BAMONA, the Big Poplar Sphinx

Larvae feed on cottonwood and poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix).

Larvae are very chunky with little to distinguish them from Pachysphinx modesta.

Paonias excaecata CK, the Blinded Sphinx

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada.

Skin is quite granulous.

Paonias excaecata, parasitized, feeding on plum, White Salmon, September 7, Candice Keller.

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

Wild cherry species are the favorites as larval foodplants, but eggs will also be deposited on birches and other forest trees.

There are varying degrees in the amount of red markings along the sides.

Smerinthus ophthalmica WO: Ophthalmica larvae resemble cerisyi larvae, both being pale green, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, and very pale longitudinal lines running from head to more pronounced anal diagonal line. Larvae have green heads bounded dorsally with pale yellow inverted "V". Note blue horn.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thetis WO,

Larval host plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, high bush cranberry and hawthorn (Crataegus).

Horn is black with a slightly lighter base. This western species was formerly classified as H. diffinis or H. senta. Those species west of the Continental Divide are now classified as H. thetis. Listed as senta on BAMONA

Macroglossini tribe:

Hyles gallii WO, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is not reported in Chippewa, but it has been recorded in eastern Wisconsin counties. I suspect it is present.
Larvae come in black and in brown forms and often feed on Epilobium (fireweed).

Hyles lineata WO, the White-lined Sphinx

Larvae are highly varied and feed on a great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), and Fuschia.
All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Proserpinus clarkiae WO, Clark's Sphinx,

Larvae feed on elegant fairyfan (Clarkia unguiculata) in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae).

Proserpinus flavofasciata WO, Yellow-banded Day Sphinx,

Larvae feed on willow weed (Epilobium) and possibly thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus).

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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