Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, July 7, 2010
Updated for Hemaris thetis, July 7, 2010, replacing H. diffinis; probably H. senta is also H. thetis.
Updated as per personal communication with Gary Vander Giessen; (Smerinthus ophthalmica; Lynden), July 7, 2010
Updated as per Butterflies and Moths of North America website, formerly USGS; July 7, 2010
Updated as per personal communication with Joy Moran; (Smerinthus ophthalmica; Lummi Island, July 22, 2012); July 25, 2012
Updated as per personal communication with Patty Volland (Smerinthus ophthalmica; Bellingham, July 7, 2013); July 11, 2013

Whatcom County


Smerinthus ophthalmica, Lynden, Whatcom County, Washington,
courtesy of Gary Vander Giessen.

This page is dedicated to Gary Vander Giessen of Lynden, Washington. Gary sent me the images of Smerinthus ophthalmica at top and bottom of this page.

Seventeen Sphingidae species are listed for Washington. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Whatcom County in northern 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 Whatcom 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.

Many thanks also to Joy Moran who sends the following image from Lummi Island.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Lummi Island, Whatcom County, Washington,
July 22, 2012, courtesy of Joy Moran.

Many thanks also to Patty Volland who sends the following image from Bellingham.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington,
July 7, 2013, courtesy of Patty Volland.

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

Although not reported from Whatcom (reported in Okanogan), I suspect it is present. 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 modesta USGS, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx. This large poplar/willow feeder is probably quite common in Whatcom. They are a heavy bodied species. Easily confused with P. occidentalis, which might also be present. Forewing lines more diffuse than in P. occidentalis.

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. generally more southerly in Washington

Paonias excaecata USGS, 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.

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, Lynden, Gary Vander Giessen.
Smerinthus ophthalmica, Ferndale, July 12, 2010, Sabrina England.
Smerinthus ophthalmica, Lummi Island, July 22, 2012, courtesy of Joy Moran.
Smerinthus ophthalmica, Bellingham, July 7, 2012, courtesy of Patty Volland.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

Hemaris thetis WO, the Thetis Clearwing

Although not officially reported from Whatcom, this day flying moth is widely distributed in Washington. It was formerly thought to be Hemaris diffinis.

I suspect I will get reports from Whatcom County.

Hemaris thysbe WO, the Hummingbird Clearwing,

Many gardeners mistake this moth for a small hummingbird as it hovers, sipping nectar from flowers through a long feeding tube. Flight is probably from late May-July and possibly again in the fall. possibility

Macroglossini tribe:

Hyles gallii USGS, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth or Gallium Sphinx

This species is reported from Whatcom County, and if you have Gallium or Epilobium, you probably have localized populations of this species.

Hyles lineata USGS, 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.

Proserpinus clarkiae BP, Clark's Sphinx

This day flier, April-June, prefering oak woodland and pine-oak woodland in foothills, is confirmed by Bob Pyle. Moths nectar at a variety of flowers in the afternoon.

Proserpinus flavofasciata WO, the Yellow-banded Day Sphinx: This day flier is not officially reported from Whatcom, but it has been found to the south (west of the Cascades) and in southwestern British Columbia in meadows near coniferous forests.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Lynden, Whatcom County, Washington,
courtesy of Gary Vander Giessen.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Lynden, Whatcom County, Washington,
courtesy of Gary Vander Giessen.

Here are sighting records and general information for Sphingidae in Whatcom County.

Bob Pyle BP reports, " I have a confirmed (collected) record for P. clarkiae from Whatcom CO"

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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