What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Moth
Location: Los Angeles, CA
April 14, 2011 5:09 pm
This Moth appeared on my window screen in Los Angeles yesterday. Is now mating with a second. It is about 3 inches wing tip to wing tip.
What Kind of Moth?
Shoudl I be concerned with moth babies?
Signature: Dan

One Eyed Sphinx

Dear Dan,
We believe this is a Salicet Sphinx,
Smerinthus saliceti, based on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, though we would not rule out the possibility that it is the closely related One Eyed Sphinx, Smerinthus cerisyi.  You have nothing to be concerned about.  Immature Moths are caterpillars.  We are actually a bit envious as we have never seen either species at our Mt. Washington, Los Angeles offices.  The related Striped Morning Sphinx and Carolina Sphinx are the only aerodynamic Hawkmoths that visit our own porch light.  We will see if Bill Oehlke can confirm our identification.  He may request additional information on the sighting location to include in his database of Sphingidae sightings in North America.

Bill Oehlke Replies
Hi Daniel,
There is very little to separate saliceti from cerisyi. Even the diagnostic feature that some use with the hindwing eyespot is not 100 percent consistent.
Generally saliceti is more of an orangey-brown to brown species while cerisyi is more grey brown to brown. The specimen in question seems to have quite a bit of grey so I am leaning towards cerisyi for that reason. I also feel the location is a bit too far north and west in California for it to be saliceti.
Although Tuttle maintains a distinction between the two species, he indicates that further research may prove them to just be variations of the same species.
I will send a copy of this to Dan in Los Angeles County, and will also request a larger image and permission to post.
Bill Oehlke

Bill and Daniel,
Great feedback from you both.  Thank you.
From the websites you shared I am 95% sure it is the cerisyi.  It was very grey…like old paper.  I have a large willow in my yard with the branches hanging down right by the window where it showed up.  As I mentioned there were 2 mating and they attached motionless for 12-24 hours.  They were gone this morning so no chance for a picture of them both together.  I am aware baby moths are caterpillars.  I am concerned that the larvae and then caterpillars may take to feasting on my willow tree.  If I see a large group of eggs, I will let you know.
Here are a couple more shots.  It is with my blackberry camera so apologies for the lack of quality.  You have permission to post.  The one with the ruler is fro the inside of the house.  the perspective is off, it was bigger than what it shows as the tape measure was closer to the camera.  I also include the original shot here.
Best,
Dan Yokich

Thanks for the additional information Dan.  We can’t imagine the caterpillars doing any lasting harm to your willow tree.  We would implore you to allow the caterpillars to feast should they happen to hatch on your tree.

Understood. We had a issue with butterflies laying thousands of eggs on 10 to 15 boughs. It was a mess with black caterpillars falling down and stripping long lengths of branches.
This sounds much different with just a few eggs here and there.
We will let them feast.
Dan

Since your tree is a willow, we expect the butterfly that laid eggs on your tree was a Mourning Cloak.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: California

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