Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sphinx Moths of Ohio, Part 3

Most species in this post are dark colored and often hard to separate.

Pawpaw Sphinx, Dolba hyloeus 7784. The hindwing is black with a thin white line in the middle. The forewing is salt and peppered. The brown color from the base to the middle portion is what I use to recognize this.

Elm Sphinx, Ceratomia amyntor 7786. Outer edges of the wings are light brown, while the center is dark brown. This species is also known as the Four-horned Sphinx, a name in reference to the caterpillar. Speaking of that number, look for four black streaks going across the wings. Besides elm, all the trees it feeds on are common, so this is a widely distributed species.

Waved Sphinx, Ceratomia undulosa 7787. I supposed you could say there are a few brown waved lines in the hindwing. The forewing is more reliable. It's gray with two thick black streaks in each wing. A distinct white dot known as a reniform spot is also helpful. Next to the Hog Sphinx, this is the most abundant species in Ohio.

Hagen's Sphinx, Ceratomia hageni 7790. This species can easily be mistaken for the Waved Sphinx. The color pattern and black streaks are similar. Alex Webb sent me a pinned specimen to be sure it's what he had. The key features are the two light colored spots on the wing. This species occurs in Ohio wherever Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is planted.

Catalpa Sphinx, Ceratomia catalpae 7789. How do you describe what is surely the dullest of all the species in the family. It's brownish gray with no distinct lines of any sort. The reniform spot is white like the previous two moths, but paler and surrounded by a black circle. It looks like a worn Waved Sphinx. Not much to go on, but that's how I recognize it. More people are familiar with the larva. Catalpa Worms make a great fish bait.

Plebian Sphinx, Paratrea plebeia 7793. This is a smaller species with a gray and white mix in the forewings. Black streaks ascend down the wings and intersect curving black lines in the middle of the wing. Also notice the black and white pattern along the wing margins.

Hermit Sphinx, Sphinx (Lintneria) eremitus 7796. There are several horizontal black lines in the wings, but they tend to be lost in all the other patterns. With both wavy lines and zig-zags, the whole thing looks marble cake. The black and white body, and the broad dark and light bands on the hindwing are typical of this genus. Lost in the middle of the wing is the white reniform spot. If you look close, this species will often have two of those spots side by side. This is a mint feeder.

Great Ash Sphinx, Sphinx chersis 7802. This is a very narrow winged, narrow bodied moth. There are four black streaks across the all gray wings, but they are very thin. I look for a wavy white line near the wing margin. I also included one of my specimens with the proboscis extended. Not all members of the family hover at plants, but those with tongues like this will take advantage of tubular flowers. Check out the great photo from Jim McCormac of these tongues in action under the Tobacco Sphinx in part 2.

Canada Sphinx, Sphinx canadensis 7807. I have never seen this in Ohio. It is more common north of us. It looks almost identical to the Great Ash above, but instead of a solid gray wing, it is interspersed  with very fine white and black lines.

Laurel Sphinx, Sphinx kalmiae 7809. Like the last few species, the banded wings and spotted body stand out on this species. The forewings are light brown or Carhartt in color, and are really all you need for ID. It feeds on many plants, one in particular, Japanese Honeysuckle, may account for its abundance.

Franck's Sphinx, Sphinx frankii 7808. When Alex described over the phone what he found, I thought he was talking about the previous Laurel species. That is until he sent me this picture. The black band in the hindwing may be solid colored or broken up like this into piano keys. The forewings are dark gray in the upper portions, with a brown streak traveling up the wing. This specimen is the northern most record for Ohio.

Apple Sphinx, Sphinx gordius 7810. Most often encountered in the northern part of the state. It's a gray moth, but there are three distinct black areas to look for. The thorax, hindwing band, and upper wing tips.

Clemens' Sphinx, Sphinx luscitiosa 7811. As with the other members of the Sphinx genus, this species has a broad black band on the hindwing and a barred body. Forewings are yellowish gray and the hindwings a bright yellow. Females have a more washed out appearance then males. This is a northern species rare in Ohio.

Wild Cherry Sphinx, Sphinx drupiferarum 7812. The center of the forewings are slate gray and bordered on both sides by a dirty white. While there are a number of scattered records around the state, it is not a common moth.

Pine Sphinx, Lapara coniferarum 7816. We leave the long narrow winged species behind and finish with a couple smaller moths with more rounded wings. The moth is plain gray on both pairs of wings. Two short black streaks on the upper wings are key. Other black markings appear faded. This is a southern species that ranges up the east coast, but in the midwest its northern limit is around Columbus.

Northern Pine Sphinx, Lapara bombycoides 7817. Similar to the above, only this time those short black streaks are immersed in much more highly patterned wings. This is a species of the Northern Hardwood Forest and the Appalachian Mountains. It is rare in the midwest states.


  1. The Catalpa Sphinx is in Washington County as well. It was actually the first moth I ever reared from a caterpillar. It may be dull to some people, but I consider it beautiful!

  2. Dennis - just found your blog and really like it. I'll add to Derek's comment in that Catalpa Sphinx are found in Stark County as well at Canal Fulton. And, last week I found a caterpillar of what I believe is Hagen's Sphinx in Washington County - see http://www.marietta.edu/~biol/field_station/field_notes/glow.html