Xylophanes tersa tersa
Updated as per http://www.pybio.org/SPHINGINAE.htm (Paraguay), October 2007
Updated as per More, Kitching and Cocucci's Hawkmoths of Argentina 2005, October, 2007
Updated as per personal communication with Tony James (St. Lucia, October 8, 2015); November 16, 2015
Updated as per personal communication with Ezequiel Bustos (Shilap revta. lepid. 43 (172) diciembre, 2015, 615-631 eISSN 2340-4078 ISSN 0300-5267), January 4, 2016

Xylophanes tersa tersa
Tersa Sphinx Moth
(Linnaeus, 1771) Sphinx

Xylophanes tersa tersa courtesy of John H. Campbell

This site has been created by Bill Oehlke
Comments, suggestions and/or additional information are welcomed by Bill.


Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris, 1839
Genus: Xylophanes Hubner [1819] ...........
Species: tersa tersa Linnaeus, 1771


The Tersa Sphinx Moth, Xylophanes tersa tersa, (wingspan: 2 3/8 - 3 1/8 inches (6 - 8 cm)), flies from Massachusetts south to south Florida; west to Nebraska, New Mexico, and southern Arizona; south through Mexico, the West Indies, and Central America to
Bolivia: Santa Cruz: Ichilo, Buena Vista (750m); Parque Amboró, Río Saguayo; Florida, Pampa Grande; Sarah (450m); La Paz: Murillo; Río Zongo, (750m); Sud Yungas: Chulumani, (2000m);
Paraguay: Alto Paraguay, Boqueron, Presidente Hayes, Concepcion, Amambay, San Pedro, Canindeyu, Alto Parana, Cordillera, Central, Caaguazu, Paraguari, Guaira, Caazapa (probably Itapua (WO??));
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Chaco, Cordoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, Salta, San Luis, San Juan (EB), Sante Fe, Tucuman.

Visit Xylophanes tersa adult and larva, Extremoz, Rio grande do Norte, Brazil, March 27, 2016, courtesy of Francierlem Oliveira.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Collier-Seminole State Park, Collier County, Florida, March 8, 2017, courtesy of David Wright.

An occasional stray makes its way into Canada.

They are common in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Marie-Galante, St-Martin, St- Bartholomew and throughout the Antilles.

Tony James reports them in St. Lucia.

Maryland is the specimen type locality.

I still have a good specimen in my boyhood collection from New Jersey from over 35 years ago.

The upperside of the forewing is pale brown with lavender-gray at the base and has dark brown lengthwise lines throughout. The upperside of the hindwing is dark brown with a band of whitish, wedge-shaped marks.

The f. tristis Closs, 1911, Bahamas, is same as Xylophanes tersa tersa.

Xylophanes tersa, Anse Chastanet, Soufriere, SW St. Lucia,
October 8, 2015, courtesy of Pat and Tony James.

Xylophanes tersa head showing coiled proboscis, leg spines, etc.,
courtesy/copyright Stephanie Sanchez, Florida.

Visit Stephanie Sanchez's Xylophanes tersa for some beautiful images.

The pronunciation of scientific names is troublesome for many. The "suggestion" at the top of the page is merely a suggestion. It is based on commonly accepted English pronunciation of Greek names and/or some fairly well accepted "rules" for latinized scientific names.

The suggested pronunciations, on this page and on other pages, are primarily put forward to assist those who hear with internal ears as they read.

There are many collectors from different countries whose intonations and accents would be different.

Jean Marie Cadiou writes, "When I say "Xylophanes" in English I pronounce it something like "Zailophanees", with the emphasis on the "o". The French pronounce it differently, something like "Kzeelophaness" with no emphasis, and the Germans yet in a different way..."

In Greek myth, Phanes is the golden winged Primordial Being who was hatched from the shining Cosmic Egg that was the source of the universe. He personifies light emerging from chaos.

"Xylo" is the Greek word for wood.

The specimen type for the genus Xylophanes is Xylophanes anubus. Perhaps ? when Hubner examined that species, the yellow-orange and brown tones of the forewings suggested wings of wood.

The species name "tersa" is possibly from the Latin, meaning dry or parched land, and may refer to the dry-brown colouration of the forewings.


Xylophanes tersa tersa, adults fly as a single brood in the north from May-October. There are several broods in Florida and Louisiana from February-November. In Costa Rica the moth has been taken every month of the year. Tony and Pat James sent me a picture from Jamaica in July.


Pupae probably wiggle to surface from subterranean chambers or leaf litter just prior to eclosion.

Female courtesy of Dan Janzen.


Adults begin feeding at sunset from flowers including honeysuckle (Lonicera), four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and Asystasia gangetica. Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen. Males come in to lights very readily, but females are seldom taken in that way.


The snake-like larva has a head and the three thoracic segments which may be retracted into abdominal segment 1, which is swollen and adorned with a pair of light-ringed eye-spots. I often get questions about these larvae due to their voracious appetites for garden penta species.

Larvae also feed on Borreria, Catalpa and Manettia spp. and Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra) and starclusters (Pentas species). They are also recorded on joe-pie weed and Hamelia patens.

Lawrence. E. Gilbert reports larvae on Hedoydis nigricans (Rubiaceae) at the field station in Austin (Brackenridge Field Laboratory), Texas. Frank Wiseman reports them on Heimia salicifolia (Hachinal).

The pupa is tan with dark markings and is formed amongst surface debris.

There is also a green colour morph.

In Costa Rica larvae feed on Psychotria microdon and Psychotria nervosa of the Rubiaceae family and on Inga vera of the Fabaceae family.

Xylophanes tersa courtesy of Barb and Mel, Miami, Florida, February 2, 2004.

In the early instars, the string of lateral "eyespots" is often quite faint.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Larvae are subject to parasitization by Microplitis marini of the Braconidae family.

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