Craven County, North Carolina
Xylophanes tersa, Craven County, NC, courtesy of Angela Fairless
This page is inspired by and dedicated to
Angela Fairless who sent me a sighting of two
Xylophanes tersa larvae feeding on buttonweed in Craven County.
Angela writes, September 12, 2005, "Hi! I am a second grade teacher
in Eastern NC. It is very windy here due to the hurricane (Ophelia).
I am finding lots of caterpillars. I raise many
different types, but this one was very different to me.
"It is what you are calling a Tersa Sphinx Moth,
Xylophanes tersa tersa.
"I am quite sure that they were feeding on button weed. We have much
of that around. I have started feeding them, and they are eating.
My children would be thrilled to see them on Monday!
We live in Craven County almost
near Pamlico County. Thanks. I have luna moths, tobacco hornworms,
monarchs and black swallowtails right now. I really enjoy raising
them, but mostly do them for the kids at school."
Thirty-six Sphingidae species are listed for North Carolina on the
U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated
in Craven County
(Only one, Isoparce cupressi is 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 Craven County, but I
(William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or
might be present.
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
WO Pink-spotted hawkmoth,
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).
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
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.
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.
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
USGS, the Cypress or Baldcypress Sphinx
Isoparce cupressi, the rare Cypress Sphinx, flies in Cypress
swamps in Georgia (specimen type locality), and from Maryland to
Texas. It has been reported in Mexico.
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.
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.
I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter Manduca quinquemaculata.
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.
If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered Manduca sexta
in the larval stage.
Larvae get very large and can strip a tomato plant.
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. questionable
We have them
on P.E.I., but I do not see them nearly as frequently
as I see the other Sphingidae. questionable
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
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
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. questionable
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.
See the file for the female; she is different.
Paonias astylus flies from March-September in Florida and from
April-September in Louisiana. There is one brood northward from
This appears to be an uncommon species. questionable
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.
Named for the small eye-spot in the hindwing, this moth has a wide
distribution and is probably present in Craven County.
I regularly see them on Prince Edward Island, and they are reported
as far south as Florida.
This moth is widely distributed and fairly common.
Along the East Coast, it flies from P.E.I. to Florida. questionable
See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish
the next three species.
Hemaris thysbe 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.
Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to
brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to
dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2
yellow segments before the tip. questionable
Hemaris gracilis WO, 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
Larvae get large and feed on grape vines and Virginia creeper.
Note the differences between this moth and the Pandorus Sphinx.
WO, the Banded Sphinx
The upperside of the moth is dark pinkish brown. Each forewing has a
lighter brown band along the costa, and sharp pinkish white bands and
streaks. Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose)
and other plants in the evening primrose family.
WO, the Intermediate Sphinx
The Intermediate Sphinx Moth, (Eumorpha intermedia), (Wing span: 3 9/16 - 3 7/8 inches (9 - 9.8 cm)), flies in lower austral and subtropical lowlands in North Carolina, Florida,
Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Texas. possibility
If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you probably have
I often get asked to identify larvae from areas not
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.
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 WO, 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.
If you have hydrangea growing near a stream, then you might have the
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. questionable
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.
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.
the Tersa Sphinx
This moth is much more common to the south. It is a strong migrant,
however, and does establish itself in Craven County, at least
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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