Smerinthus cerisyi,<br>Cerisyi's Sphinx
Updated as per personal communication with Edna Woodward, July 23, 2013
Updated as per Pacific Northwest Moths website, July 23, 2013
Updated as per personal communication with Jason Naylor (Smerinthus ophthalmica, Reno, May 2, 2015); May 2, 2015

Smerinthus ophthalmica
Boisduval, 1855

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada,
May 25, 2009, courtesy of Ben and April.

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Smerinthini, Grote & Robinson, 1865
Genus: Smerinthus Latreille, 1802........
Species: ophthalmica Boisduval, 1855


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Smerinthus ophthalmica, (forewing length: 34-47mm) closely resembles Smerinthus cerisyi, and until recently (2010) had been synonymized with cerisyi.

Schmidt & Anweiler (2010) put forth the argument, based on observations across a broad zone of contact of these moths in Alberta, and a 3.5% difference in the sequence of the cox1 gene of their mitochondrial DNA, that ophthalmica deserves its own status as a distinct species.

Many thanks to Jason Naylor who provides the following image of Smerinthus ophthalmica.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Reno, Washoe County, Nevada,
May 2, 2015, courtesy of Jason Naylor.

S. ophthalmica flies across southern British Columbia and southern Alberta into southwestern Saskatchewan. In the United States it can be found in Washington, Oregon and northern and central California eastward into Idaho, western Montana, western Wyoming and northern Nevada and northern Utah.

I am pretty sure the following specimen from northwestern New Mexico is S. ophthalmica.

It is impossible to distinguish female ophthalmica from female cerisyi without examination of DNA, but male ophthalmica are noticeably distinct:
the forewing outer margin of ophthalmica is smoothly scalloped while that of cerisyi is more sharply/irregularly scalloped;
the lower edge of the grey apical patch in ophthalmica runs almost straight to the first vein, while in cerisyi the same edge is notched with a slight return toward the outer margin;
the pm line of opthalmica consists largely of two diffuse arcs while the same line in cerisyi is a series of shadowed projections;
dark patch with upper crescent-shaped edge extends from midwing along inner margin toward body;
the pink suffusion on the hindwing of ophthalmica is more reduced (tanner) toward the outer margin than in cerisyi.

Smerinthus ophthalmica antennae typically rest alongside head and thorax and forewings generally conceal hindwings.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Stevens County, Washington, Steve Daniel.


There are sporadic eclosions of this single brooded species from March (rare) into October (rare) with peak flights from mid May into July.

Visit Smerinthus ophthalmica, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, May 25, 2009, courtesy of Ben and April.

Visit Smerinthus ophthalmica, Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada, May 15, 2010, courtesy of John Tschopp.

Visit Smerinthus ophthalmica intermediate adult, Canyon, British Columbia, June 13, 2013, Elaine Dixon.

Visit Smerinthus ophthalmica larva, Port Kells/Clayton Heights, Surrey, British Columbia, August 20, 2012, Lisa Ingvallsen.

Visit Smerinthus ophthalmica, Ventura County, California, February 8, 2013, courtesy of Mike Lemos.

David Gabon from Hollister, San Benito County, California, writes, "We have Smerinthus ophthalmica emerging from under our weeping willow tree. My son found a freshly emerged male on Saturday 3/22. He then found found a pair mating this morning (3/23) in our backyard, and I later witnessed a female depositing eggs tonight on willow leaves. The Sphingidae page lists flying periods from May to July but it's still March so they emerge here in Hollister two months earlier than noted."

Mike Belcher of Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California, reports a sighting in his yard on April 13, 2008.


Little is known about the eclosions of the earth pupators, but many believe pupae wiggle toward the surface just prior to emergence.

Reared stock, stored in refrigerator at 48 F from October until May, began eclosing nine days out of storage at 68 F.

Moths eclose after dark, usually around midnight.

On the other hand, Robert Jindra has seen some Sphingidae emerge in their subterranean chambers and then climb to the surface through their original tunnel. In June of 2012 Zana Goulding sent me a nice image of underside of a Smerinthus ophthalmica male. Zana writes, "Hi Bill, found this one on the garage today, it was too high up for me to get any real good shots. It did appear to have some sort of eye and pinkish color on the underwing; maybe 1.5 inches long in the body."

Smerinthus ophthalmica (based on relatively smooth outer margin) male (verso), Spokane, Spokane County, Washington,
June 24, 2012, courtesy of Zana Goulding


Females extend a scent gland from the posterior of the abdomen to lure in the night flying males. The male aligns himself at 180 degrees from the female so that their heads are in opposite directions during pairing, which continues until the following evening.

Smerinthus ophthalmica in copula, Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana,
May 24, 2015, courtesy of Jean Robocker.

Females, with a body girth much greater than that of males, will mate the same night as they have eclosed.

Resting males arch the lower third of their abdomens upwards towards the thorax while females rest with the abdomen uncurled.

Both sexes rest with wings parallel to the plain of the resting surface. Note the filiform antennae and "turkey baster" abdomen of the female, above.


Females have a relatively short tongue length of 5 mm and readily deposit all their eggs (100+) on the insides of brown paper grocery bags or sandwich bags within 5 or 6 days without any feeding.

Spherical, pale yellow eggs are difficult to distinguish from other Sphingidae eggs.

Smerinthus ophthalmica eggs, Ferndale, Whatcom County, Washington,
July 12, 2010, courtesy of Sabrina England.

Eggs, which are usually deposited singly or in pairs, incubate for six to eight days at 70 F and tiny larvae readily accept various species of willow and poplar. "This species is a foodplant specialist feeding on Salicaceae including willows (Salix spp.), cottonwoods (Populus spp.), and quaking aspen (P. tremuloides)." MPNw

Smerinthus cerisyi, Newark, Alameda County, California,
courtesy of Manyee Desandies.

Smerinthus cerisyi fifth instar, East Kootenays, British Columbia, Canada, August 1, 2009, courtesy of Daryll.

Daryll writes, "Found in British Columbia, (east Kootenays), fell off the willow tree in a wind storm, about 3 inches long when totally outstretched and 1/2 inch wide, very strong."

Larval growth is rapid (3-4 weeks) on either willow or poplar and this species readily pupates under artificial conditions, i.e., dark enclosure, bottom filled with loose tissue or paper towelling. Pupation usually occurs within 4 to 5 days. I believe the anal horm is consistently blue, at least in the final instar.

Smerinthus ophthalmica pupae, Whatcom County, Washington, August 20, 2010, courtesy of Sabrina England.

Larvae have granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, and very pale longitudinal lines running from the head to a more pronounced anal diagonal line.

The anal horn of the mature ophthalmica is blue. I believe it is consitently pink is the very similar Smerinthus cerisyi.

Smerinthus ophthalmica, Newark, Alameda County, California,
courtesy of Manyee Desandies.

Smerinthus ophthalmica fifth instar, East Kootenays, British Columbia,
August 1, 2009, courtesy of Daryll.

Daryll writes, "Found in British Columbia, (east Kootenays), fell off the willow tree in a wind storm, about 3 inches long when totally outstretched and 1/2 inch wide, very strong."

View a beautiful series of four images of a Smerinthus ophthalmica larva (fifth instar), View Royal, British Columbia, Canada, August 1, 2010, courtesy of Lauren, David and Rick Van Acken.

Smerinthus cerisyi/ophthalmica? fifth instar, British Columbia,
courtesy of Ben Trott;
pinkish horn indicates S. cerisyi which is sympatric with ophthalmica in parts of BC.


Gravid females are readily taken at lights and will oviposit (without feeding) on the insides of brown paper sandwich bags. Reared stock also mates readily in captivity in screen or hardware cloth cages so obtaining eggs is relatively easy. Wild males also readily respond to calling, caged females.

After allowing the eggs a day or two to harden, Gently remove them with your thumbnail to 414 ml (about 1/2 quart or 1/2 liter) ziploc plastic tubs. Use a different tub for each evening's eggs and record date on tub. Put no moisture in with the eggs and snap the lids shut. Larvae usually emerge in the morning 6-8 days after deposition. The eggs can be left affixed to cut outs of brown paper bag. No food is put in tubs until after larvae have begun emerging. (Good idea not to have unhatched eggs in container when inserting food).

A few poplar or willow leaves left affixed to twig are placed in with emerged larvae. After two or three days of feeding, larvae can be moved outdoors to sleeved willow or poplar branches.

When larvae are nearly full grown or begin to leave foliage (3-4 weeks) and crawl around on sleeve, bring them indoors and put them in 2-5 gallon clear plastic tubs with cut food. These larvae have strong mandibles and desire to leave host to pupate underground is so strong, that they will actually chew holes through Remay cloth if not removed.

When larvae leave food in plastic tubs, gently lift larvae and place them in lidded buckets that have three or four layers of paper towels on the bottom. Buckets are placed in warm, dark spots, and pupation occurs in 4-5 days under paper towelling.

Tim Dyson (pupa (cerisyi) image to right) uses a medium of leaf litter for pupation. Various mixtures of peat, sand, soil, litter are also fine.

After pupae have hardened for several days, you can place them side by side on top of a few sheets of folded paper towels in same ziploc containers I used for eggs. Pupae are stored at room temperature in lidded containers until they go in fridge in October for winter storage. One or two drips/drops of water in the container at time of entry to fridge is all the care that is needed over the winter.

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