Species Pachysphinx occidentalis - Western Poplar Sphinx - Hodges#7829
Show images of: caterpillars
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
No Taxon (Moths)
Family Sphingidae (Sphinx Moths)
Species occidentalis (Western Poplar Sphinx - Hodges#7829)
Other Common Names
Big Poplar Sphinx - name not recommended (see Remarks below)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Pachysphinx occidentalis (Hy. Edwards, 1875)
Smerinthus occidentalis Hy. Edwards, 1875
* phylogenetic sequence #227800
Explanation of Names
OCCIDENTALIS: occidental means western (as opposed to oriental - eastern); generally refers to the western hemisphere, but in this case refers to western North America.
Wingspan 108-148 mm.
Forewing length 6.5-7.1 cm.(1)
Adult - 2 color forms - forewing of light form pale yellowish-brown, darker in median area; forewing of dark form similar to Modest Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta) but with darker lines that contrast more against ground color. Hindwing of both forms with extensive red or pink shading and two short blackish lines near anal angle, the inner line thick and slightly bent but not forming an obvious triangle (as it does in P. modesta)
Larva - head, thorax, and abdomen light green dotted with white; head with converging yellow bands; oblique white band extends from subventral area of A8 to tip of horn on A9; oblique white lines on A1-A7 extend from in front of spiracle to dorsum of adjacent posterior segment; transverse white band at base of anal prolegs [description by Caterpillars of Pacific Northwest Forests and Woodlands site].
Western United States from North Dakota to Texas, westward; in Canada, occurs only in Alberta.
Riparian areas, open parklands, suburbs at low elevations; adults are nocturnal and attracted to light.
Adults fly from Februray to September (up to three broods) in lower elevations of southern California and southern Arizona (Rubinoff)(1)
, May to September in the south (two broods); June to August in the north (one brood). Larvae present in July and August.
Larvae feed on leaves of cottonwoods, especially Populus freemonti
and Populus sargentii (1)
, also willow (Salix
spp.). Adults do not feed.
Overwinters as a pupa in the soil.
There is confusion regarding the common name. Holland's 1904 publication, Covell's Guide, and the recent Audubon Guide calls P. modesta the Big Poplar Sphinx but that name is used only for P. occidentalis by the Butterflies and Moths of North America site and several other sources. Since both species are called Big Poplar Sphinx by various sources, it would be less confusing if that name were not used at all, and replaced with either Modest Sphinx (for P. modesta) or Western Poplar Sphinx (for P. occidentalis).
The Modest Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta) occurs coast to coast in North America, whereas the Western Poplar Sphinx (P. occidentalis) is restricted to western North America.
The Butterflies and Moths of North America site lists this species as occurring in Florida, presumably in error, as only Pachysphinx modesta
[Hodges #7828] appears on the Florida Lepidoptera list
by John Heppner, and none of the 17 records of P. occidentalis
reported by The Leopidopterists Society
are from Florida.
) forewing is dark greenish-gray in median area, and lines show little contrast against ground color; hindwing has prominent blackish triangle near outer margin; generally found at higher elevations than P. occidentalis
of light form and P. modesta
Edwards, Hy. 1875. Pacific Coast Lepidoptera, no. 11. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 6: 92
Hodges, R. W. 1971. Moths of America North of Mexico, Fascicle 21: p.91; pl.8.8-10
Powell, J. A. & P. A. Opler 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press. pl.39.1m, p.242
Tuttle, J. P. 2007. Hawk Moths of North America: p.127; pl.11.10
pinned adult images
of light and dark forms (Bruce Walsh, Moths of Southeastern Arizona)
pinned and live adult images
and live larva image, plus habitat, distribution, description, foodplants, seasonality, and other info (Bill Oehlke, silkmoths.bizland.com)
pinned adult image
by Paul Opler, plus US distribution map (Butterflies and Moths of North America, butterfliesandmoths.org)
live adult images
taken in Hereford, Arizona (Larry Line)
live larva image
by Jeffrey Miller, plus description, foodplants, seasonality (Caterpillars of Pacific Northwest Forests and Woodlands, USGS)
distribution in Canada
- recorded from Alberta only (CBIF)
|1.||Moths of Western North America|
Powell and Opler. 2009. UC Press.