Newly Emerged Poplar Sphinx?
Fri, May 29, 2009 at 8:09 PM
Hi–This morning there was quite a ruckus in our back yard, as the cat had apparently found a very newly-emerged Sphinx Moth. At first I thought it was a mouse or hummingbird (when I found it it was crawling on the cement, with the cat trying to pounce on it, much to my horror). I threw the cat inside and got some garden gloves and gently scooped him (her?) up and set him in the hanging fucshia for safety. I took pix throughout the day. It was still there around 6pm. I’m attaching 3 pix from this morning, afternoon, and evening. I think the markings on the right wing might be from the cat….
Kel Casey
Coronado, CA

Poplar Sphinx

Western Poplar Sphinx

Dear Kel,
There are two moths that may be confused that go by the common name Poplar Sphinx. Your moth is the Big Poplar Sphinx, Pachysphinx occidentalis, that is found in western North America. A similar and closely related species is the Modest Sphinx, Pachysphinx modesta, is sometimes called the Poplar Sphinx, but this is an eastern North American species. Here is what Bill Oehlke’s website has to say: “Pachysphinx modesta , the Poplar Sphinx or Modest Sphinx ranges through southern portions of all Canadian provinces and is found in the eastern half of the U.S. from Maine to northern Florida. James P. Tuttle has range maps showing it as far west as eastern Washington southward to extreme northeastern New Mexico. Most of the western specimens appear to be P. occidentalis , and I would not be surprised if there is some natural hybridization in the western states. “

Big Poplar Sphinx

Western Poplar Sphinx

BugGuide also has this information: “There is confusion regarding the common name. Holland’s 1904 publication, Covell’s Guide, and the recent Audubon Guide calls P. modesta the Big Poplar Sphinx but that name is used only for P. occidentalis by the Butterflies and Moths of North America site and several other sources. Since both species are called Big Poplar Sphinx by various sources, it would be less confusing if that name were not used at all, and replaced with either Modest Sphinx (for P. modesta ) or Western Poplar Sphinx (for P. occidentalis ).
The Modest Sphinx ( Pachysphinx modesta ) occurs coast to coast in North America, whereas the Western Poplar Sphinx ( P. occidentalis ) is restricted to western North America. “

Thanks so much. He was pretty big. I remember last year seeing a much smaller version of almost the same thing, so wasn’t sure. We do have a couple of poplar trees on and near our property.
I like the Latin name of Pachysphinx– translated to elephant sphinx?
Thanks again.

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