Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Sue Schneider, September 6, 2009
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 8, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Joy (Eumorpha fasciatus larva, Winterstown, York County); October 15, 2013

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Ceratomia amyntor, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, courtesy of Sue Schneider.

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

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Sue Schneider in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Sue sent me a report and images (top and bottom of page) of a Ceratomia amyntor larva sighting on September 6, 2009.

Most of the Sphingidae larvae are green and well camouflaged among the foliage they eat. Generally only one to five eggs are deposited on a single host plant, and these larvae go unnoticed unless they are feeding on garden tomato plants (Manduca quinquemaculata and Manduca sexta), in large numbers on Catalpa trees (Ceratomia catalpae), or on foliage of decorative flowers (Hyles lineata on portulaca, and/or Xylophanes tersa on pentas).

If you have domestic grape vines or decorative Virginia Creeper growing on your property or nearby, you may encounter several of the others:
Eumorpha achemon, Eumorpha pandorus, Amphion floridenis, Darapsa myron, Deidamia inscriptum and Sphecodina abbottii.

Encounters with other species are less likely, but some of the larger species consume copious amounts of foliage, revealing their spectacular bulk.

Almost all of the Sphingidae larvae, at maturity, leave their foodplant hosts and crawl some distance from the plant to excavate subterranean chambers in which to pupate. I frequently get asked to identify caterpillars discovered in this travel mode.

Most Sphingidae larvae have a well defined anal horn, harmless to humans, but probably threatening to some would-be predators. The Eumorpha species and Specodina abbottii have the horn replaced by a raised "eye" in the final instar. The Lapara species are without horns from the time of hatching.

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

Fifty Sphingidae species are listed for Pennsylvania on the U.S.G.S. (now BAMONA) website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Lancasterr County (eighteen are reported on U.S.G.S., two of which are non-breeding strays or releases: Aellopos titan and Sphinx pinastri. It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the caterpillars you are might encounter.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I (William Oehlke) expect that this species is present or might be present.

A "USGS" 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 Bill Oehlke.

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

I have added Eumorpha fasciatus to the list, based on an image of larva sent to me from nearby York County by Joy, who writes, "I discovered this caterpillar along the pond edge on three way sedge, Dulichium arundinaceum. I'm thinking we are north for its range of distribution. From what I have read it will pupate underground."

Eumoprha fasciatus, Winterstown, York County, Pennsylvania,
October 14, 2013, courtesy of Joy.

I reply, "Yes, it is north of generally accepted range, and it may not be able to withstand winter temperatures in pupal stage in your area, although pupation near pond might provide more moderate winter soil temperatures. I suspect eggs were deposited on host by a migrant stray from further south.

"Perhaps, however, this species is developing a tolerance for colder temperatures, and influences of global warming may provide opportunities for survival in more northern habitats than the generally accepted breeding range."

Visit Lancaster County Sphingidae: Adult Moths

VVisit Penssylvania Catocala: Underwing Moths

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Ceratomia amyntor SS, Elm Sphinx, Four-horned Sphinx: Both brown and green forms; unmistakeable due to four horns on thorax (near the head). Elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), cherry (Prunus).

Ceratomia amyntor larva, Lancaster, September 6, 2009, Sue Schneider

Ceratomia catalpae WO, Catalpa Sphinx: This caterpillar is one of the few North American Sphingidae that feed in large groups. Colouration is distinctive. The larvae are much more spectacular than the moths. Catalpa is the larval host.

Ceratomia undulosa WO, Waved Sphinx: Note the pinkish-orange tail, spiracles outlined in red and the cream stripes on the head.
The dramatic color change from the dorsal yellow-green to the lateral light greyish-blue is not always as intense as in this image.

Dolba hyloeus WO, Pawpaw Sphinx: Note the smooth skin, blue-black horn and small black spiracles. Pawpaw is the primary host. Littleleaf sweetfern, possum haw, inkberry, tall gallberry holly and others are also utilized.

Lapara bombycoides WO, Northern Pine Sphinx: This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines. The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.

Lapara coniferarum USGS, Southern Pine Sphinx: This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines. The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.

Lintneria eremitus WO, Hermit Sphinx: Note triangular bump on the thorax. Larval hosts are various species of beebalm (Monarda), mints (Mentha), bugleweed (Lycopis), and sage (Salvia).

Manduca jasminearum WO, Ash Sphinx: Larvae feed on ash in the Fraxinus genus. Syringa and Ulmus have also been reported. Note the black anal horn.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS, Five-spotted Hawkmoth: Note solid black horn and dark spiracular rings. In addition to the white oblique lines, there are fainter white rings, especially on the back. I suspect if you grow tomatoes, you are likely to encounter it.

Manduca rustica WO, Rustic Sphinx: Note the green horn, raised white bumps and strong dark lines anterior to the white ones. generally more southerly

Manduca sexta USGS, Carolina Sphinx: Note the red horn and black dots anterior to the white oblique lines. If you grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered it.

Paratrea plebeja WO, Plebeian Sphinx: Larvae feed at night, hiding on the underside of stems during the day. Common trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans), Florida yellow-trumpet (Tecoma stans), lilac (Syringa species), and passionflower (Passiflora species).

Sphinx chersis USGS, Northern Ash Sphinx, Great Ash Sphinx: Note pale blue horn, creamy-white stripes on head. Yellow form has red horn. Ash, lilac, privet, cherry and quaking aspen.

Sphinx drupiferarum WO, Wild Cherry Sphinx: Larvae hide by day, feed primarily on cherry, plum, apple at night. Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts; in Michigan on Prunus serotina. Note purple oblique lines.

Sphinx franckii WO, Franck's Sphinx: Ash (Fraxinus). Raised, pointed bumps, especially near the head and thorax give this caterpillar a reptilian appearance.

Sphinx gordius WO, Apple Sphinx: Apple (Malus), sweetfern (Myrica), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), blueberry, huckleberry (Vaccinium), white spruce (Picea glauca), American larch (Larix laricina), alder (Alnus).

Sphinx kalmiae WO, Laurel Sphinx: In the final instar, the black on the head, lateral lines, horn and on abdominal legs is diagnostic.

Larvae feed primarily on lilac and fringe.

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis USGS, Walnut Sphinx: Walnut and butternut (Juglans), hickory (Carya), alder (Alnus), beech (Fagus), hazelnut (Corylus), and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya).

Pachysphinx modesta WO, the Modest Sphinx or Poplar Sphinx
This moth is not officially recorded in Lancaster County. It is fond of poplars and willows.

Paonias astylus USGS, the Huckleberry Sphinx: It would be more common further south, and it is a relatively uncommon species. Only rarely are they seen in Maine. I never saw one in New Jersey.

Paonias excaecata USGS, the Blinded Sphinx

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

Paonias myops USGS, 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 jamaicensis USGS, Twin-spotted Sphinx: Larvae feed upon many forest trees including birches and cherries, but are expecially fond of poplars and willows. Red markings on sides vary greatly from specimen to specimen.

Macroglossinae subfamily

Dilophonotini tribe:

See Hemaris comparison to help distinguish the next three species.

Hemaris thysbe USGS, Hummingbird Clearwing: Also an orangey-pink prepupal form. The lateral line runs from S1 to the blue horn. Viburnum and related plants.

Hemaris diffinis WO, Snowberry Clearwing, Bumblebee Moth: Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum), dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). Horn black; yellow base.

Hemaris gracilis WO, Slender Clearwing, Graceful Clearwing: Blueberries including low bush blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), laurel (Kalmia), in heath family (Ericaceae).

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS, Achemon Sphinx: Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), other vines, ivies (Ampelopsis). Both a light (green) form and a darker (tan/brown) form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.

Eumorpha fasciatus USGS, Banded Sphinx: Primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose), plants in evening primrose family. Hornless, highly variable. Dark spiracular circles; dark line in center of back.

Eumorpha pandorus USGS, Pandorus Sphinx: If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you might encounter this species.

Note the five large white ovals. There are orangey-brown and green forms also.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis USGS, Nessus Sphinix: Virginia creeper, Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), cayenne pepper (Capsicum). Larvae are green until the final instar.

Darapsa choerilus WO, Azalea Sphinx: Azalea, Viburnum; progress very rapidly. Larva, left, on Viburnum cassinoides is readying to pupate. Color change from green to light burgundy-brown indicates imminent pupation.

Darapsa myron USGS, Virginia Creeper Sphinx, Grapevine Sphinx: If you have foodplants indicated in common names, you probably have myron. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Grape (Vitis), Ampelopsis, Viburnum.

Darapsa versicolor WO, Hydrangea Sphinx: Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and waterwillow (Decodon verticillatus). Note small head which can be retracted into the thorax.

Deidamia inscriptum USGS, Lettered Sphinx: Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts. The alternating yellow and greyish-green rings across the back distinguish this larva.

Hyles lineata USGS, White-lined Sphinx: Highly varied. Willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), Fuschia. Rred/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, Abbott's Sphinx: Larvae feed at night on grape (Vitis) and ampelopsis (Ampelopsis) and hide on the bark during the day. Virginia creeper. Dark form without the green patches. Note the "raised eye", replacing the anal horn.

Xylophanes tersa USGS, Tersa Sphinx: Borreria, Catalpa, Manettia spp., Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra), starclusters (Pentas species). Joe-pie weed, Hamelia patens, Hedoydis nigricans. The green form may be more common. generally more southerly

Ceratomia amyntor, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, courtesy of Sue Schneider.

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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