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Species Sphinx poecila - Northern Apple Sphinx - Hodges#7810.1

Sphinx Moth Caterpillar Needs ID - Sphinx poecila Northern Apple Sphinx #2 - Sphinx poecila Sphinx Moth-5 - Sphinx poecila Caterpillar IMG_6542 - Sphinx poecila Sphinx moth - Sphinx poecila Sphinx poecila Sphinx poecila - female Sphinx poecila
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
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)
Subfamily Sphinginae
Tribe Sphingini
Genus Sphinx
Species poecila (Northern Apple Sphinx - Hodges#7810.1)
Hodges Number
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Sphinx poecila Stephens, 1828
Phylogenetic sequence # 227300
wingspan 65-95 mm
larva length to 55 mm
Adult: forewing dark gray mixed with lighter gray shading, short black longitudinal streaks, and diffuse blackish lines; small white discal spot usually present near costa; veins with black scaling; fringe checkered black and white; abdomen with dorsal gray stripe and alternating black and pale whitish dorsolateral markings
hindwing brownish-gray with wide black border and blackish median line; fringe mostly white

Larva: body greenish with oblique lines on abdomen, and prominent dorsal horn on A8; head dark green head with adjacent greenish-yellow and dark green streaks from top of lobes to stemmata; tiny, hollow, purplish-black circles concentrated on dorsum and below spiracles; white oblique lines edged above with purplish-black and extending from subdorsal to subspiracular area of A1 to A7; last oblique line reaches prominent mainly dark hook on A8; thorax and abdomen with bluish-green tint below spiracles; brownish-red spiracles rimmed with light yellow
[adapted from description at]

Ongoing work suggests that Sphinx gordius cannot be separated from Sphinx poecila in any lifestage except using barcode. Care should be taken with ID.

According to The Hawk Moths of North America by James Tuttle, adults of this species can be separated from the similar Apple Sphinx (Sphinx gordius) by the submarginal area of the forewing being concolorous with the rest of the forewing. In S. gordius, the submarginal area is much darker than the rest of the forewing.
British Columbia to Labrador and Nova Scotia, south to New Jersey, west to Minnesota
boreal forests, bogs, barrens; adults may be seen nectaring at flowers during the day or at dusk, but are mostly nocturnal and attracted to light (males moreso than females)
Adults are most common from May to August.
larvae from April to September {mature stage in August and September)
larvae feed on leaves of apple, blueberry, meadowsweet (Spirea spp.), spruce, Sweet Gale (Myrica gale), tamarack
adults take nectar from flowers of shrubs and herbaceous plants
Life Cycle
one generation per year; overwinters as a pupa in the soil
Sources listing the food plant "sweetfern (Myrica)" is an error: the Sweet Fern genus is Comptonia; the Sweet Gale genus is Myrica (both plants are in the family Myricaceae).

The Northern Apple Sphinx was treated as a separate species (split from Sphinx gordius) by Charles Riotte in 1980. David Wagner et al treat it as a species in Caterpillars of Eastern Forests (1997), but Wagner then says that "The Apple Sphinx may represent a complex of two closely related species. For the purposes of this guide, I ignore the name Sphinx poecila (Poecila Sphinx), which purportedly replaces the Apple Sphinx from Pennsylvania, Great Lakes States, and New England northward."
See Also
Sphinx gordius - the forewing fringes are mostly black with some white, and hindwing fringes are mostly white with some black patches. In S. poecila the forewing fringes are checkered black and white, while the hindwing fringes are almost totally white. (MPG)

This fringe differences are only tendencies, however, and are not 100% diagnostic. According to The Hawk Moths of North America by James Tuttle, however, adults of this species can be separated with certainty from the similar Apple Sphinx (Sphinx gordius) by the subterminal area of the forewing being concolorous with the rest of the forewing. In S. gordius, the subterminal area is much darker than the rest of the forewing.

Ongoing work suggests that the two cannot be reliably separated by any means except DNA.
Print References
Riotte, J. Charles E. 1980. Sphinx poecila, a valid North America hawkmoth species (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Great Lakes Entomol. 13(3): 115-130.
Internet References
live images of all life stages plus common name reference [Poecila Sphinx], description, seasonality, biology, food plants, rearing information (Bill Oehlke, Prince Edward Island,
pinned adult image plus habitat, description, food plants, distribution, similar species (G.G. Anweiler, U. of Alberta)
pinned adult image plus description, seasonality, food plants, habitat, biology, US distribution map (Paul Opler, Moths of North America; USGS)
live larva image plus common name reference [Northern Apple Sphinx], description, food plants, seasonality (David Wagner et al, Caterpillars of Eastern Forests; USGS)
distribution in Canada list of provinces (CBIF)