Beautiful moth on front porch
July 7, 2010
I photographed this moth on our front porch. After a few days I noticed it hadn’t moved so I touched it and it spread it’s wings more and these pink eyes appeared, after several more days it laid eggs, can I hatch them and what kind of food do they need?
North west Washington state
Your moth, Smerinthus cerisyi, is one of the Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths in the family Sphingidae and there is an excellent profile of the species on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website. It is commonly called the One Eyed Sphinx, a name that doesn’t make much sense considering the bilateral symmetry of its anatomy. The one eye is a comparison of the characteristics of the eyespots of other species like the Blinded Sphinx, Paonias excaecata, also profiled on the Oehlke site, or the Twin Spotted Sphinx, Smirinthus jamaicensis, also profiled on the Oehlke site. The One Eyed Sphinx is also known as Cerisy’s Sphinx. Your two photos together are an excellent example of the protective coloration of the One Eyed Sphinx. While resting, the eyespots or ocelli are hidden, but if the moth is disturbed by a predator, like the pecking of a bird, the moth reveals its eyespots and the bird may be startled into thinking that the prey might really be a larger predator. Many butterflies and moths have such ocelli, and there are nice examples posted to BugGuide. According to Bill Oehlke’s website, the caterpillars will feed on the leaves of willow and poplar. According to BugGuide, the caterpillars will feed on the leaves of pear and plum as well as willow and poplar.