Family Sphingidae - Sphinx Moths
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)
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.
There are 124 described species found in America north of Mexico.(2)
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).
Throughout North America.
Year round in the south
Larvae feed both day and night on many kinds of woody and herbaceous plants.
Adults feed on nectar and some are important pollinators.
Usually pupate in soil, though some form loose cocoons among leaf litter.
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.
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
Moth Photographers Group
- living photos of most North American species.
Sphingidae of the Americas
- Bill Oehlke, silkmoths.bizland.com
Bombycoidea of Canada
- J.T. Troubridge and J.D. Lafontaine (CBIF)
Moth Photographers Group
- pinned plate of most North American species.
. Mimicry in Sphinx moths. Video
|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.