Other Common Names
Six-spotted Sphinx Moth
Tobacco Hornworm (caterpillar)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Manduca sexta (Linnaeus, 1763)
Sphinx sexta Linnaeus, 1763
Explanation of Names
SEXTA: meaning six; there are six orangish-yellow spots on each side of the abdomen in adults.
Adult: Large. Forewing gray with indistinct black lines and brown shading; usually has six pairs of yellow spots on abdomen.
Hindwing small, banded black and white, with two black zigzag median lines very close together
Larva: large green body; dorsal "horn" (usually curved and orange, pink or red) on terminal abdominal segment; up to seven oblique whitish lateral lines, edged with black on upper borders.
The similar looking Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, has eight v-shaped stripes and a straight blue-black horn. These caterpillars are often confused and misidentified.
Florida to Massachusetts, west through southern Ontario, Michigan, and Minnesota to Colorado and California. Ranges south through Mexico, West Indies, neotropics to Argentina.
Varied, including fields, agricultural lands.
The main flight period is May to October; year round in Florida.
Larvae feed on leaves of potato, tomato, tobacco (Nightshade family--Solanaceae).
Adults take nectar from deep-throated flowers, such as Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), moonflower (Calonyction aculeata), and petunia (Petunia hybrida).
Several generations per year in the southern states; two generations per year farther north; larval development averages twenty days.
Mature larvae drop to the ground and pupate underground.
1. first instar caterpillar. 2. later caterpillar. 3. pupa. 4. adult female
(Five-spotted Hawk Moth) is similar as is its caterpillar, the Tomato Hornworm (below).
(Catalpa Sphinx) adult is similar
Covell, C.V. 1984. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Moths
. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 32; plates 1, 3. (1)
Himmelman, J. 2002. Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard
. Down East Books. plate A-2. (2)
Hodges, R.W., 1971. The Moths of America North of Mexico, Fascicle 21
. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation. p. 29; plate 1, fig. 7. (3)
Powell, J.A. & P.A. Opler 2009. Moths of Western North America
. University of California Press. plate 40, fig. 5; p. 244. (4)
Salsbury, G.A. & S.C. White. Insects in Kansas
. Kansas Dept. of Agriculture. p. 324. (5)
Wagner, D.L. 2005. Caterpillars of Eastern North America
. Princeton University Press. p. 248 (6)