Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Calendar
Upcoming Events

Photos of insects and people from the 2022 BugGuide gathering in New Mexico, July 20-24

National Moth Week was July 23-31, 2022! See moth submissions.

Photos of insects and people from the Spring 2021 gathering in Louisiana, April 28-May 2

Photos of insects and people from the 2019 gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Photos of insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12


Previous events


TaxonomyBrowse
Info
ImagesLinksBooksData

Family Sphingidae - Sphinx Moths

Tersa Sphinx - Xylophanes tersa Lettered Sphinx? - Deidamia inscriptum Unknown Moth  - Smerinthus ophthalmica Nessus Sphinx Moth - Amphion floridensis Unknown Caterpillar - Eumorpha pandorus Moth - Ceratomia undulosa Catalpa Sphinx - Ceratomia catalpae Virginia Creeper Sphinx? - Darapsa myron
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Bombycoidea (Silkworm, Sphinx, and Royal Moths)
Family Sphingidae (Sphinx Moths)
Other Common Names
Hawk Moths (adults)
Hornworms (larvae)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Sphingidae Latreille, 1802
Explanation of Names
Sphingidae from the type genus Sphinx (Linnaeus), for "the fancied resemblance of the larva, when in repose, to the Egyptian Sphinx." (1)
Common name "Hornworm" due to the stiff pointy dorsal extension near the end of the abdomen of most larvae.
Numbers
There are 124 described species found in America north of Mexico.(2)
Size
Wingspan 28-175 mm.
Identification
Adult - medium to very large. Body very robust; abdomen usually tapering to a sharp point. Wings usually narrow; forewing sharp-pointed or with an irregular outer margin. No ocelli or tympanal organs. Proboscis usually well developed, extremely long in some species that feed in flowers with deep calyxes. Antennae gradually thicken along length, then become narrower toward tip.
Larva - naked except for a few scattered hairs. Most have a prominent dorsal horn at the tip of abdomen (thus the name, hornworms).
Range
Throughout North America.
Season
Year round in the south
Food
Larvae feed both day and night on many kinds of woody and herbaceous plants.
Adults feed on nectar and some are important pollinators.
Life Cycle
Usually pupate in soil, though some form loose cocoons among leaf litter.
Remarks
Some are active only at night, others at twilight or dawn, and some, such as the clearwings (e.g. genus Hemaris - not to be confused with the Clearwing family, Sesiidae) feed on flower nectar during the day.
Some larvae (hornworms) do serious damage to crop plants (e.g. tomato, tobacco, potato). Hornworms are often attacked by braconid wasp parasitoids.
Print References
Brou V.A., Jr. & C.D. Brou. 1997. Distribution and phenologies of Louisiana Sphingidae. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 51(2): 156-175.
Covell. C.V. 1984. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Moths. Houghton Mifflin Company. (2)
Hodges, R.W. 1971. Moth of North America North of Mexico Fascicle 21.(3)
Kitching et al. 2018. A global checklist of the Bombycoidea (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Biodiversity Data Journal, 6: e22236. (4)
Selman, C.L. 1975. A Pictorial Key to the Hawkmoths (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) of Eastern United States (except Florida). Ohio Biological Survey, Biological Notes No. 9., Columbus, OH. 31 pp. (5)
Rothschild, W. & K. Jordan. 1903. A Revision of the Lepidopterous Family Sphingidae. p. 1-972, pl. 1-67
Internet References
Moth Photographers Group - living photos of most North American species.
Sphingidae of the Americas - Bill Oehlke, silkmoths.bizland.com
Sphingidae of the United States - subset of site above
Moths of Southeastern Arizona, Sphingidae - Bruce Walsh, U. of Arizona
Bombycoidea of Canada - J.T. Troubridge and J.D. Lafontaine (CBIF)
Moth Photographers Group - pinned plate of most North American species.
Terra Naturalist. Mimicry in Sphinx moths. Video
Works Cited
1.An accentuated list of the British Lepidoptera, with hints on the derivation of the names.
Anonymous. 1858. The Entomological Societies of Oxford and Cambridge.
2.Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Moths
Charles V. Covell. 1984. Houghton Mifflin Company.
3.The Moths of America North of Mexico Fascicle 21 Sphingidae
Ronald W. Hodges. 1971. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation.
4.A global checklist of the Bombycoidea (Insecta: Lepidoptera)
Kitching, I., R. Rougerie, A. Zwick, C. Hamilton, R. St Laurent, S. Naumann, L. Ballesteros Mejia, A. Kawahara. 2018. Biodiversity Data Journal, 6: e22236.
5.A pictoral key to the hawkmoths of eastern United States (except Florida)
Charles L. Selman. 1975. Ohio Biological Survey, Columbus. 31 pp.