Abbott’s Sphinx Moth: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth, named after naturalist John Abbott, is an interesting species of moth with a unique appearance. These moths have distinct markings and characteristics, making them a fascinating topic for entomologists.

As an example, their wings are adorned with stunning patterns, setting them apart from other moths.

Found in various habitats, they are a testament to the diversity of the moth family. Key features of the Abbott’s Sphinx Moth include:

  • Striking wing patterns
  • Bicolored hindwings
  • Large size
Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

In comparison to the White-lined Sphinx Moth, which features a furry brown body and long, narrow wings, Abbott’s Sphinx Moth has a more distinct and vivid appearance with unique markings.

Knowing more about this captivating creature can serve as an opportunity to appreciate the wonders of nature and the often-overlooked world of moths.

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth: Overview

Species Classification

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth belongs to the family Sphingidae.

This moth species is named after John Abbott, a London-born naturalist who illustrated over 3,000 insects during his lifetime. He was known for his detailed paintings and accurately illustrating insects in all life stages.

Geographic Distribution

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth can be found in a wide range of habitats throughout North America. It is often seen around plants that serve as hosts for their larvae, providing an abundant food source for the caterpillars to develop.

Comparison Table Showing the Differences Between Two Moth Species

FeatureAbbott’s Sphinx MothWhite-lined Sphinx Moth
SizeMedium-sizedLarge, stout-bodied
WingsLong, narrowLong, narrow, triangular
HabitatNorth AmericaNorth America
HostsVarious plantsPrimarily desert plants

The Abbott’s Sphinx Moth shares some similarities with other sphinx moths, such as the White-lined Sphinx Moth. Both are found in North America and have long, narrow wings.

However, the size and preferred host plants differ between the two species.

Physical Appearance and Features

Size and Coloration

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth is known for its distinct size and coloration. The moth is predominantly gray and brown, making it easily blend into its surroundings.

  • Size: midsize to large
  • Color: Gray to brown, with black bands and/or spots

Wings and Flight

The wings of Abbott’s Sphinx Moth are essential for flight. Their unique features include:

Mimicry and Camouflage

Mimicry and camouflage are two vital traits for the Abbott’s Sphinx Moth, as these help them avoid predators. They can appear similar to tree bark or leaves. Their gray and brown hues help in blending into the surroundings.

Life Cycle of Abbott’s Sphinx Moths

Eggs and Larval Stage

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth begins its life as tiny, round eggs laid on the leaves of host plants, such as grapevine or Virginia creeper.

Within a few days, the eggs hatch, releasing tiny, green caterpillars. These caterpillars, also known as hornworms, have a unique appearance. They are:

  • Green with a black horn-like structure at their tail end
  • Covered in diagonal, white bands

A notable feature of hornworms is their voracious appetite; they rapidly consume plant leaves, growing larger and molting several times during the larval stage1.

Pupal Stage

After completing the larval stage, hornworms burrow into the soil2. Here, they enter the pupal stage and transform into a protective, brown case called a pupa. Pupae are characterized by:

  • Dark brown color
  • Cylindrical, elongated shape with a pointed tip
  • A silk-like thread attaches them to the soil

The pupal stage lasts for around two to three weeks, but it can extend up to several months, depending on environmental conditions.

Adult Stage

When the moth has finished its metamorphosis, it emerges from the pupa as a fully-formed adult3. Adult Abbott’s Sphinx Moths have several distinctive traits:

  • Sturdy, robust bodies
  • Long narrow wings
  • Mottled gray and brown coloration

One unique behavior of the adult moths is their ability to hover while feeding on nectar from flowers, using their long proboscis4.

Below is a comparison table illustrating significant differences between the life stages of Abbott’s Sphinx Moth.

Life StageAppearanceDurationActivity
EggsTiny, round1-4 daysLaid on host plant leaves
LarvalGreen caterpillar, horn-like1-2 monthsFeeding, molting, and growing
PupalDark brown, cylindrical2-3 weeks to several monthsDevelopment in soil, metamorphosis
AdultSturdy body, long wings1-2 monthsFeeding on nectar, mating, and laying eggs

Behavior and Ecology: All You Should Know

Nocturnal Activities

Abbott’s Sphinx Moths are active primarily at night. They are known for their fast and agile flying abilities, enabling them to navigate through different environments.

Feeding Habits

These moths have a very long proboscis, perfect for feeding on nectar from flowers. Some common flowers visited by Abbott’s Sphinx Moth include:

  • Trumpet creeper
  • Honeysuckle
  • Evening primrose

Comparison Table: Abbott’s Sphinx Moth vs. White-lined Sphinx Moth:

FeatureAbbott’s Sphinx MothWhite-lined Sphinx Moth
SizeMedium-sized mothLarge, stout-bodied moth
Forewing ColorBlends with barkDark olive brown with tan band
Hindwing ColorBrown with pink patchesPink with black bands
PatternMimic damaged bark or lichenWhite stripes on body and distinct pattern
StripesNot prominentSix white stripes across body

Characteristics of Abbott’s Sphinx Moths:

  • Wing pattern resembles damaged bark or lichen
  • Hovering ability while feeding on nectar
  • Primarily nocturnal habits

Conservation and Threats

Natural Predators

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth has a variety of natural predators in its ecosystem. Some examples include:

  • Birds
  • Bats
  • Spiders
  • Praying mantises

These predators help control the moth population and maintain a balance in their natural habitat.

Human Impact

Human activities also affect the Abbott’s Sphinx Moth. For instance:

  • Habitat destruction: When humans clear land for agriculture or urban development, they might destroy the moths’ habitat and food sources.
  • Light pollution: Artificial lights can disorient and attract moths, making it difficult for them to find food and mate.

By considering the natural predators and human impact on Abbott’s Sphinx Moth, we can better understand how to preserve and support their existence.

Conclusion

Abbott’s Sphinx Moth takes us on a captivating journey into the world of moths. With its stunning wing patterns, nocturnal habits, and fascinating life cycle, this remarkable species deserves our admiration.

However, to ensure its survival, it’s important to address the various challenges it faces, ranging from natural predators to human impact.

Footnotes

  1. Field Station – Abbott’s Sphinx Moth

  2. Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths – US Forest Service

  3. Wisconsin Horticulture – White-lined Sphinx Moth

  4. MDC Teacher Portal – Sphinx Moths (Hawk Moths)

Readers’ Mail

We have received hundreds of emails from our readers asking us to identify Abbot’s Sphinx moths. We have reproduced some of them here for you to enjoy the beautiful images and the (sometimes) witty conversation!

Letter 1 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Caterpillar, grey, “one-eye”, snake like
August 3, 2009
We found this caterpillar in the Rouge Valley area of southern Ontario. It is grey, and at the rear end it has a mark that looks like an eye. It raises it’s back end and strikes like a snake. Could you please tell us what type it is, and what it turns into?
R & E
Rouge Park, Toronto, South Eastern Ontario

Dear R & E,
Your “one eyed monster” is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbottii.  There are several different color morphs for the caterpillar that make them look like different species.  You can see these variations on Bill Oehlke’s awesome website.

Letter 2 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Abbott sphinx moth caterpillar
July 7, 2010
Hello, I notice you have a number of photos of Abbott Sphinx Moth caterpillars. I would like to share these photos I took last summer of one I found in my sister’s garden while removing some overgrown wild grape vines in case they are useful to you. Thank you for all the additional information you have provided on this site!
I was amazed at how chubby this caterpillar was and the noise it made at me. I photographed it on my gardening gloves to give it some scale. Hope this may be useful to you.
I enjoy photographing bugs and am glad to have found your site.
Alison
London, Ontario, Canada

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Alison,
Your photos are great.  They clearly show the caudal bump on the rump end of the caterpillar.  Most Sphinx Moth caterpillars have a caudal horn, giving rise to the common name Hornworm for the Caterpillars.  The Abbott’s Sphinx,
Sphecodina abbotti, loses its horn after the initial instars, and it is left with this bump that resembles an eye.  Eyespots like this are known as ocelli, a term that is also used for primitive eyes found on many insects.  BugGuide has a nice explanation of ocelli.  The ocellus on the Abbott’s Sphinx may confuse and startle a predator like a bird into thinking that the succulent caterpillar might be a threatening snake.  Your photos nicely illustrate how the Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar might be confused for a snake.

Letter 3 – Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar: Gray Form

Hi!
Just had the attachment sent to me, but I am not quite certain from where; likely Western Canada . Apparently these are on Virginia creeper. I thought they might be or related to Elephant hawk moths, Deilephila elpenor . Is BT still considered a control or is hand-picking the answer. Thanks in advance.
Art C. Drysdale
Chairman, Vancouver Island Flower & Garden Festival Society

Hi Art,
Sorry for the delay. This is an Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbotti. There is both a green phase and a gray phase. There are some great images on BugGuide. The caterpillar loses is caudal horn before pupating. The resulting “scar” resembles an eye, a form of protective coloration. We do not recommend any pesticides, and if there are just a few caterpillars, would strongly recommend letting them have a meager meal.

Letter 4 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Moth I.D
Hi Bugman
I wonder if you can I.D. this moth. Looks like a kind of sphinx but I’m not sure.. Thanks in advance
Sam Stone

Hi Sam,
Your moth is a very tattered Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii.

Letter 5 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Subject: What’s this thing?
Location: Pittston PA
May 10, 2013 5:38 am
Found in NE Pennsylvania near Pittston along the Susquehanna River playing in the mud
Signature: don’t matter

Dear don’t matter,
This Sphinx Moth appears to be an Abbott’s Sphinx, however, your photo is lacking in critical detail for us to be certain.  You may read more about the Abbott’s Sphinx on the Sphingidae of the Americas website and you can find out more information on National Moth Week events in your area by visiting the National Moth Week website.

Letter 6 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Subject: Identify this moth please
Location: Barrie, Ontario
June 7, 2014 5:23 pm
This moth flew into my garage today. I live in Barrie, Ontario. It’s body is about an inch long and it is about 2″ wide. What is it?
Signature: Thanks, Aerin

Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

Dear Aerin,
We believe your Sphinx Moth is an Abbott’s Sphinx,
Sphecodina abbottii, and you may compare your individual to the images on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  Though we have no shortage of images of the caterpillars of the Abbott’s Sphinx on our site, the only other image of the moth dates to 2006.

Thank you for identifying my bug! This is another picture I was able to get before I safely moved it outside. It did very much mimic a bee when it was buzzing around the window trying to get out. I am glad to know it isn’t an enemy of my vegetable garden! And very interesting that you haven’t had a picture of this moth since 2006!
Thanks again!
Aerin

Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

Hi again Aerin,
Thanks for sending another image.  Just so you know, we are postdating your submission to go live during our absence from the office next week as our regular readers have come to expect daily updates from us.

Letter 7 – Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi, I was so glad to find your site – My daughter and I are fascinated by the unusual (and usual) insects we find in SE Canada(Ottawa, Ont.Canada). This beautiful caterpillar was discovered on a Virginia Creeper vine (Gini). We have seen many caterpillars and we have fun watching the larva pupate and emerge as butterflies. No one, uncluding experts has been able to ID Gini, and we would love to know what she is(especially since she wandered off from her spot and is hanging somewhere, or dug into some plant. It’s been 2 weeks since her hiatus, and still nothing.
Thank you,
Sherleen and Faith Smithson
P.s. She’s 4 inches long

Hi Sherleen and Faith,
Gini is one of two different color varieties of the Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbotti. According to Holland: “This beautiful hawkmoth is found throughout the Eastern States and southern Canada and ranges westward as far as Iowa and Kansas. The larva feeds on the Vitaceae and is not uncommon on Ampelopsis. The caterpillar is not provided with an anal horn, but has instead an eye-like tubercle, or boss, at the anal extremity. It has the habit when disturbed, of throwing its head violently from side to side, a movement found in other sphingid larvae, …” Holland doesn’t mention the two color varieties. We found that information on this site which states: ” Two very different forms: form pictured here unmistakable; other form brown, streaked with white and black, and oblique lines that run through spiracles. Head with broad dark band to either side of triangle, edged outwardly with pale band. Caudal horn replaced by eyelike bump. Food: grape family. Caterpillar: May through September; presumably 2 generations in Deep South, 1 generation in North.” By the way, your photo is much nicer than the one pictured on that site. Guessing by the size of your caterpillar, we can only guess that it has buried itself in the ground to pupate.

Thank you, Daniel, now I know she has to be in one of my plants! There are wild grape vines growing with the Virginia Creeper. so I imagine Gini was traveling for the ground when I was clearing the patch. We are so pleased about your site, because we’re always coming across something unique. I wish I could have sent in pictures of a pink(magenta), smooth-skinned caterpillar and a shell pink moth(1 1/2″ wingspan). Anyway, Faith and I will continue to watch your site. Thank you so much,
Sherleen Smithson
P.S. My oldest son did the photo – he inadvertently killed a Dobson Fly because it terrified him – he didn’t know what it was until we found a picture in a book. I think he’ll be a bit more merciful in the future. He brought us a gorgeous Imperial Moth and took photos of it and the Sphinx(probably Tomato Hornworm) Moth we found. If you could use the pictures, we can send them.

Letter 8 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

2 pictures for you
Dear Bugman,
These fellows are feeding on the wild grape that shades our porch (Delhi, NY). Pretty big now — 4″ long and fat — and still eating. What are they?? Thanks,
Kids at Lotus School

Dear Kids at Lotus School,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Specodina abbotti. This caterpillar has several different color variations, and the brown one is much more subtle than the green spotted brown variation we have been recently sent. We are copying Bill Oehlke on your response as he is keeping comprehensive records on species distribution.

Letter 9 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Interesting caterpillar
Howdy Bugman;
Here are a couple of pictures of a caterpillar that we found but have been unsuccessful in identifying. Do y’all know what kind of butterfly or moth it is? We found it on a wild grape vine in some tall weeds in our backyard in rural northwest Wisconsin on July 11. Thanks for your help.
The Smith Boys

Hi Smith Boys,
Providing our readership with both a lateral view and a dorsal view of this distinctive Abbott’s Sphinx will afford an excellent means for identification. One small problem is the coloration of this species, Sphecodina abbottii, has a highly variable caterpillar. The absence of the caudal horn typical of most Sphinx Caterpillars, and the resulting eyespot is one characteristic that is present in all color variations of the caterpillar. We are copying Bill Oehlke on our reply as he is compiling a comprehensive listing of species sightings on his own amazing website.

Letter 10 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

yikes! what kind of caterpillar is this??
can you tell us what kind of caterpillar this is? he (or she) has a false “eye” on the tail and kind of hisses when you touch it it also strikes out at whatever touches it like it want to bite… it is on our fence in barrington, ri right near a bunch of forsythia trees thank you
meme pudifin

Hi Meme,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii, Caterpillar. There are several color variations and this is the most spectacular. The false eye and the aggressive behavior will fool a predator like a bird into thinking it is dealing with a potentially harmful snake instead of a harmless succulent caterpillar. We are sad you did not include a location in your letter. We are going to copy Bill Oehlke on this in the hopes you will provide locations for both of us so he can include the information in his comprehensive species distribution date.
it is in barrington, rhode island in our backyard!! thank you so much are they common to this area??

Letter 11 – Abbotts Sphinx Caterpillar

mystery pillar
Can anyone help ? What will this guy become ?
Thanx Lyn

Hi Lyn,
We crave information, like location and food plants. This is an Abbotts Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbottii. It is relatively unique among the sphinxes since it looses its caudal horn, and the remaining “scar” looks like an eye, which probably frightens predators like birds.

Letter 12 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

What is this caterpiller?
June 13, 2010
We found this caterpiller while hiking at amicollola Falls, georgia.It was brightly colored teal and brown and alsoa little agressive. Please help identify. I cannot find anywhere.
Stacy Miles
North georgia

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Stacy,
This is one of several color variations, known as morphs, for the caterpillar of the Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii, a species that is profiled on BugGuide.

Letter 13 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Subject:  Is this an Abotts Sphinx caterpillar?
Geographic location of the bug:  St. Claude Manitoba
Date: 07/12/2019
Time: 10:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you verify which caterpillar this may be? He’s been munching on my grape vine leaves.
How you want your letter signed:  Pauline

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Pauline,
This is indeed one of the color variations of the Abbott’s Sphinx caterpillar which you can verify on Sphingidae of the Americas where it states:  “Larvae feed at night on grape (
Vitis) and ampelopsis (Ampelopsis) and hide on the bark of their host plants during the day.”

Letter 14 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar: Brown Morph

Whats This Bug
I found this bug on the ground below an old oak with many vines. I live in north west Florida. I believe it is an Abbot’s sphinx caterpillar in a variation other than you had posted from 08/07/2004.
Heather

Hi Heather,
Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillars, Sphecodina abbottii, have several different color morphs, including the brown form in your photograph.

Letter 15 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar in Canada

Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Winnipeg, Mb
Date: 06/16/2021
Time: 03:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this caterpillar with a blue/green/white colouring and dark green bands with an orange spot on its back. Can’t find the species anywhere!
How you want your letter signed:  Lauren

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Lauren,
This is a Caterpillar of an Abbott’s Sphinx Moth,
Sphecodina abbottii, and you can verify that by comparing your individual to this image posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae start out green with a horn on the final segment. Middle instar larvae are whitish to blue-green with dark faint cross-stripes and the horn replaced by an orange raised knob on the last segment (A8). The last instars may be either brown with a “wood-grain” pattern or brown with ten pale green saddles along the back. In these late instars the knob resembles an eye.”

Letter 16 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar in Manitoba, Canada

Subject: Caterpillar on Virginia creeper
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
June 25, 2017 8:02 pm
Hi there. I found this caterpillar along with some baby caterpillars and what could be eggs on my Virginia creeper vine. There are holes in the leaves. Not sure if the babies are the same caterpillar.
It looks like a shiny brown globe on its butt, interesting… Is it a fake eye to distract predators?
Signature: Maggie

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Maggie,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar,
Sphecodina abbottii, which we verified by comparing your individual to this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on Grape, Vitis and Ampelopsis” and though it is not mentioned, Virginia Creeper is in the same family as grape and many caterpillars that feed on grape will also feed on Virginia Creeper.  BugGuide data does not report any Manitoba sightings, and Sphingidae of the Americas does not list the species among those found in Manitoba.  Though Sphingidae of the Americas does not include any reports from Manitoba, the species page does indicate a caterpillar “was spotted on Virginia Creeper in early August in Quebec.”  We are going to contact Bill Oehlke to inform him of your Winnipeg sighting which might be an indication the species is moving north due to global warming.  We hope you will allow him to post your image on his very comprehensive site.

Absolutely. I also have some pics of baby caterpillars, and eggs, which could be the same species – all in the same vicinity of the adult. I’m including them here…
I have spotted a Waved Sphinx here as well. Thanks for the id. I hope it doesn’t destroy my vine, but I’ll leave it.

Possibly Sphinx Moth Eggs

Dear Maggie,
The eggs do resemble those of a Sphinx Moth and the caterpillar with the caudal horn is definitely a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, however there are other species that feed on Virginia Creeper and we cannot state for certain that your early forms are Abbott’s Sphinx.  According to the Sphingidae of the Americas, the Achemon Sphinx is reported from Manitoba and the site states:  ”
Eumorpha achemon larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies (Ampelopsis).

Sphinx Caterpillar Hatchling

Letter 1 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Caterpillar, grey, “one-eye”, snake like
August 3, 2009
We found this caterpillar in the Rouge Valley area of southern Ontario. It is grey, and at the rear end it has a mark that looks like an eye. It raises it’s back end and strikes like a snake. Could you please tell us what type it is, and what it turns into?
R & E
Rouge Park, Toronto, South Eastern Ontario

Abbott's Sphinx Caterpillar
Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear R & E,
Your “one eyed monster” is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbottii.  There are several different color morphs for the caterpillar that make them look like different species.  You can see these variations on Bill Oehlke’s awesome website.

Letter 2 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

abbott sphinx moth caterpillar
July 7, 2010
Hello, I notice you have a number of photos of Abbott Sphinx Moth caterpillars. I would like to share these photos I took last summer of one I found in my sister’s garden while removing some overgrown wild grape vines in case they are useful to you. Thank you for all the additional information you have provided on this site!
I was amazed at how chubby this caterpillar was and the noise it made at me. I photographed it on my gardening gloves to give it some scale. Hope this may be useful to you.
I enjoy photographing bugs and am glad to have found your site.
Alison
London, Ontario, Canada

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Alison,
Your photos are great.  They clearly show the caudal bump on the rump end of the caterpillar.  Most Sphinx Moth caterpillars have a caudal horn, giving rise to the common name Hornworm for the Caterpillars.  The Abbott’s Sphinx,
Sphecodina abbotti, loses its horn after the initial instars, and it is left with this bump that resembles an eye.  Eyespots like this are known as ocelli, a term that is also used for primitive eyes found on many insects.  BugGuide has a nice explanation of ocelli.  The ocellus on the Abbott’s Sphinx may confuse and startle a predator like a bird into thinking that the succulent caterpillar might be a threatening snake.  Your photos nicely illustrate how the Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar might be confused for a snake.

Letter 3 – Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar: Gray Form

Hi!
Just had the attachment sent to me, but I am not quite certain from where; likely Western Canada . Apparently these are on Virginia creeper. I thought they might be or related to Elephant hawk moths, Deilephila elpenor . Is BT still considered a control or is hand-picking the answer. Thanks in advance.
Art C. Drysdale
Chairman, Vancouver Island Flower & Garden Festival Society

Hi Art,
Sorry for the delay. This is an Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbotti. There is both a green phase and a gray phase. There are some great images on BugGuide. The caterpillar loses is caudal horn before pupating. The resulting “scar” resembles an eye, a form of protective coloration. We do not recommend any pesticides, and if there are just a few caterpillars, would strongly recommend letting them have a meager meal.

Letter 4 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Moth I.D
Hi Bugman
I wonder if you can I.D. this moth. Looks like a kind of sphinx but I’m not sure.. Thanks in advance
Sam Stone

Hi Sam,
Your moth is a very tattered Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii.

Letter 5 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Subject: What’s this thing?
Location: Pittston PA
May 10, 2013 5:38 am
Found in NE Pennsylvania near Pittston along the Susquehanna River playing in the mud
Signature: don’t matter

Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

Dear don’t matter,
This Sphinx Moth appears to be an Abbott’s Sphinx, however, your photo is lacking in critical detail for us to be certain.  You may read more about the Abbott’s Sphinx on the Sphingidae of the Americas website and you can find out more information on National Moth Week events in your area by visiting the National Moth Week website.

Letter 6 – Abbott’s Sphinx

Subject: Identify this moth please
Location: Barrie, Ontario
June 7, 2014 5:23 pm
This moth flew into my garage today. I live in Barrie, Ontario. It’s body is about an inch long and it is about 2″ wide. What is it?
Signature: Thanks, Aerin

Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

Dear Aerin,
We believe your Sphinx Moth is an Abbott’s Sphinx,
Sphecodina abbottii, and you may compare your individual to the images on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  Though we have no shortage of images of the caterpillars of the Abbott’s Sphinx on our site, the only other image of the moth dates to 2006.

Thank you for identifying my bug! This is another picture I was able to get before I safely moved it outside. It did very much mimic a bee when it was buzzing around the window trying to get out. I am glad to know it isn’t an enemy of my vegetable garden! And very interesting that you haven’t had a picture of this moth since 2006!
Thanks again!
Aerin

Abbott's Sphinx
Abbott’s Sphinx

Hi again Aerin,
Thanks for sending another image.  Just so you know, we are postdating your submission to go live during our absence from the office next week as our regular readers have come to expect daily updates from us.

Letter 7 – Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi, I was so glad to find your site – My daughter and I are fascinated by the unusual (and usual) insects we find in SE Canada(Ottawa, Ont.Canada). This beautiful caterpillar was discovered on a Virginia Creeper vine (Gini). We have seen many caterpillars and we have fun watching the larva pupate and emerge as butterflies. No one, uncluding experts has been able to ID Gini, and we would love to know what she is(especially since she wandered off from her spot and is hanging somewhere, or dug into some plant. It’s been 2 weeks since her hiatus, and still nothing.
Thank you,
Sherleen and Faith Smithson
P.s. She’s 4 inches long

Hi Sherleen and Faith,
Gini is one of two different color varieties of the Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbotti. According to Holland: “This beautiful hawkmoth is found throughout the Eastern States and southern Canada and ranges westward as far as Iowa and Kansas. The larva feeds on the Vitaceae and is not uncommon on Ampelopsis. The caterpillar is not provided with an anal horn, but has instead an eye-like tubercle, or boss, at the anal extremity. It has the habit when disturbed, of throwing its head violently from side to side, a movement found in other sphingid larvae, …” Holland doesn’t mention the two color varieties. We found that information on this site which states: ” Two very different forms: form pictured here unmistakable; other form brown, streaked with white and black, and oblique lines that run through spiracles. Head with broad dark band to either side of triangle, edged outwardly with pale band. Caudal horn replaced by eyelike bump. Food: grape family. Caterpillar: May through September; presumably 2 generations in Deep South, 1 generation in North.” By the way, your photo is much nicer than the one pictured on that site. Guessing by the size of your caterpillar, we can only guess that it has buried itself in the ground to pupate.

Thank you, Daniel, now I know she has to be in one of my plants! There are wild grape vines growing with the Virginia Creeper. so I imagine Gini was traveling for the ground when I was clearing the patch. We are so pleased about your site, because we’re always coming across something unique. I wish I could have sent in pictures of a pink(magenta), smooth-skinned caterpillar and a shell pink moth(1 1/2″ wingspan). Anyway, Faith and I will continue to watch your site. Thank you so much,
Sherleen Smithson
P.S. My oldest son did the photo – he inadvertently killed a Dobson Fly because it terrified him – he didn’t know what it was until we found a picture in a book. I think he’ll be a bit more merciful in the future. He brought us a gorgeous Imperial Moth and took photos of it and the Sphinx(probably Tomato Hornworm) Moth we found. If you could use the pictures, we can send them.

Letter 8 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

2 pictures for you
Dear Bugman,
These fellows are feeding on the wild grape that shades our porch (Delhi, NY). Pretty big now — 4″ long and fat — and still eating. What are they?? Thanks,
Kids at Lotus School

Dear Kids at Lotus School,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar, Specodina abbotti. This caterpillar has several different color variations, and the brown one is much more subtle than the green spotted brown variation we have been recently sent. We are copying Bill Oehlke on your response as he is keeping comprehensive records on species distribution.

Letter 9 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Interesting caterpillar
Howdy Bugman;
Here are a couple of pictures of a caterpillar that we found but have been unsuccessful in identifying. Do y’all know what kind of butterfly or moth it is? We found it on a wild grape vine in some tall weeds in our backyard in rural northwest Wisconsin on July 11. Thanks for your help.
The Smith Boys

Hi Smith Boys,
Providing our readership with both a lateral view and a dorsal view of this distinctive Abbott’s Sphinx will afford an excellent means for identification. One small problem is the coloration of this species, Sphecodina abbottii, has a highly variable caterpillar. The absence of the caudal horn typical of most Sphinx Caterpillars, and the resulting eyespot is one characteristic that is present in all color variations of the caterpillar. We are copying Bill Oehlke on our reply as he is compiling a comprehensive listing of species sightings on his own amazing website.

Letter 10 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

yikes! what kind of caterpillar is this??
can you tell us what kind of caterpillar this is? he (or she) has a false “eye” on the tail and kind of hisses when you touch it it also strikes out at whatever touches it like it want to bite… it is on our fence in barrington, ri right near a bunch of forsythia trees thank you
meme pudifin

Hi Meme,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii, Caterpillar. There are several color variations and this is the most spectacular. The false eye and the aggressive behavior will fool a predator like a bird into thinking it is dealing with a potentially harmful snake instead of a harmless succulent caterpillar. We are sad you did not include a location in your letter. We are going to copy Bill Oehlke on this in the hopes you will provide locations for both of us so he can include the information in his comprehensive species distribution date.
it is in barrington, rhode island in our backyard!! thank you so much are they common to this area??

Letter 11 – Abbotts Sphinx Caterpillar

mystery pillar
Can anyone help ? What will this guy become ?
Thanx Lyn

Hi Lyn,
We crave information, like location and food plants. This is an Abbotts Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbottii. It is relatively unique among the sphinxes since it looses its caudal horn, and the remaining “scar” looks like an eye, which probably frightens predators like birds.

Letter 12 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

What is this caterpiller?
June 13, 2010
We found this caterpiller while hiking at amicollola Falls, georgia.It was brightly colored teal and brown and alsoa little agressive. Please help identify. I cannot find anywhere.
Stacy Miles
North georgia

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Stacy,
This is one of several color variations, known as morphs, for the caterpillar of the Abbott’s Sphinx, Sphecodina abbottii, a species that is profiled on BugGuide.

Letter 13 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Subject:  Is this an Abotts Sphinx caterpillar?
Geographic location of the bug:  St. Claude Manitoba
Date: 07/12/2019
Time: 10:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you verify which caterpillar this may be? He’s been munching on my grape vine leaves.
How you want your letter signed:  Pauline

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Pauline,
This is indeed one of the color variations of the Abbott’s Sphinx caterpillar which you can verify on Sphingidae of the Americas where it states:  “Larvae feed at night on grape (
Vitis) and ampelopsis (Ampelopsis) and hide on the bark of their host plants during the day.”

Letter 14 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar: Brown Morph

Whats This Bug
I found this bug on the ground below an old oak with many vines. I live in north west Florida. I believe it is an Abbot’s sphinx caterpillar in a variation other than you had posted from 08/07/2004.
Heather

Hi Heather,
Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillars, Sphecodina abbottii, have several different color morphs, including the brown form in your photograph.

Letter 15 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar in Canada

Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Winnipeg, Mb
Date: 06/16/2021
Time: 03:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this caterpillar with a blue/green/white colouring and dark green bands with an orange spot on its back. Can’t find the species anywhere!
How you want your letter signed:  Lauren

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Lauren,
This is a Caterpillar of an Abbott’s Sphinx Moth,
Sphecodina abbottii, and you can verify that by comparing your individual to this image posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae start out green with a horn on the final segment. Middle instar larvae are whitish to blue-green with dark faint cross-stripes and the horn replaced by an orange raised knob on the last segment (A8). The last instars may be either brown with a “wood-grain” pattern or brown with ten pale green saddles along the back. In these late instars the knob resembles an eye.”

Letter 16 – Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar in Manitoba, Canada

Subject: Caterpillar on Virginia creeper
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
June 25, 2017 8:02 pm
Hi there. I found this caterpillar along with some baby caterpillars and what could be eggs on my Virginia creeper vine. There are holes in the leaves. Not sure if the babies are the same caterpillar.
It looks like a shiny brown globe on its butt, interesting… Is it a fake eye to distract predators?
Signature: Maggie

Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Maggie,
This is an Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillar,
Sphecodina abbottii, which we verified by comparing your individual to this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on Grape, Vitis and Ampelopsis” and though it is not mentioned, Virginia Creeper is in the same family as grape and many caterpillars that feed on grape will also feed on Virginia Creeper.  BugGuide data does not report any Manitoba sightings, and Sphingidae of the Americas does not list the species among those found in Manitoba.  Though Sphingidae of the Americas does not include any reports from Manitoba, the species page does indicate a caterpillar “was spotted on Virginia Creeper in early August in Quebec.”  We are going to contact Bill Oehlke to inform him of your Winnipeg sighting which might be an indication the species is moving north due to global warming.  We hope you will allow him to post your image on his very comprehensive site.

Absolutely. I also have some pics of baby caterpillars, and eggs, which could be the same species – all in the same vicinity of the adult. I’m including them here…
I have spotted a Waved Sphinx here as well. Thanks for the id. I hope it doesn’t destroy my vine, but I’ll leave it.

Possibly Sphinx Moth Eggs

Dear Maggie,
The eggs do resemble those of a Sphinx Moth and the caterpillar with the caudal horn is definitely a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, however there are other species that feed on Virginia Creeper and we cannot state for certain that your early forms are Abbott’s Sphinx.  According to the Sphingidae of the Americas, the Achemon Sphinx is reported from Manitoba and the site states:  ”
Eumorpha achemon larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies (Ampelopsis).

Sphinx Caterpillar Hatchling

53 thoughts on “Abbott’s Sphinx Moth: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide”

  1. Tonite (July 1) I found a 3″ long caterpillar, drowned, in a bucket of water under a trellis on which we grow grapes. I am so sorry I didn’t find the poor thing earlier, before it died. A search on the Net pulled up this image: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Sphecodina-abbottii, so I found an Abbott’s sphinx caterpillar.

    I see grapes are a host for the caterpillars.

    We live in southern NH, right outside Brattleboro, VT.

    Reply
    • Thank you for such a thoughtful and sharing comment Dori. We greatly appreciate that you went through the trouble of creating a link.

      Reply
  2. july 12 2013 just encountered a one eye abbotts sphinx caterpiller i’ve never seen anything like it before very scary looking little creature with an attitude

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  3. I live in Boisbriand near Montreal, P.Q.
    Yesterday, I found an Abbott’s Sphynx carterpillar in the grass ,crawling towards the grapes that grow around my house.
    First time I ever saw one of those.
    Strange, ugly & cute.

    Reply
    • Someone once said to us “If it has a mouth, it can bite” so we suppose an Abbot’s Sphinx Caterpillar might bite a person, but no harm would occur.

      Reply
  4. I live on long Island Ny . just found one of those creatures on the stem of a vine.
    hoping it was a cecropia moth, no luck.
    thanks for the pix
    dee from long island

    Reply
  5. I live on long Island Ny . just found one of those creatures on the stem of a vine.
    hoping it was a cecropia moth, no luck.
    thanks for the pix
    dee from long island

    Reply
  6. I saw one crawling out on my river rock surrounding ivy on my house. It was very aggressive snarling and flipping around as I tried to study it. Did manage to get it in a glass jar at which time it backed it’s end without the eye over the rim. Brushed it back down with a leaf and it again presented its end without the eye up over the rim of the glass jar. This time I just watched. It opened up an orafice and expelled a brownish orange fluid which first looked like a small balloon before the fluid discharged and ran down the inside of the glass. And then it died. I was horrified and so sad. Next time I’ll just take pictures.

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  7. We have one on our Virginia Creeper in Fort Garry area, along with a baby catterpilar and eggs. It is brown and green colour. We got some beautiful pictures.

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  8. I spotted one of these in my yard last summer— I have creeper all over my house. I also have spotted the one with the eggs so definitely have made their way to Winnipeg!

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  9. I took out a 3 year old Virginia Creeper today and found about 15 of these, maybe 7 of the larger size and 8 smaller instars that are more white. I am in North Kildonan in Winnipeg

    Reply
  10. Found an abbots Sphinx moth on Virginia creeper that I was trimming back. I was about to snip the VC and then saw something wiggle. I have kept it in a habitat to observe it. I would appreciate any info available on rearing it to chrysalis or cocoon. Thanks.
    Also, how do I send a photo?

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  11. Have never seen these before yesterday, when suddenly our creeper vine was absolutely decimated. There must be at least 30 on there, in varying stages! We’re in St. Vital, Winnipeg MB.

    Reply
  12. Yep, we have found them in our grape vines as well in Fort Garry, Manitoba. They are quite large and do a lot of damage on our vines ( decimated leaves). They are certainly not very pretty but as they are part of nature, I’ll leave them alone. For now!

    Reply
  13. Found one yesterday at our place on East Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Very aggressive and almost impossible to hold. Put it in the bush. It was on the house

    Reply
  14. Found one of these creepy dudes in my backyard in Barrie Ontario. He was moving his head around and trying to strike us but we managed to kill it before anything happened. Weird!

    Reply
    • Abbott’s Sphinx Caterpillars pose no threat to humans and killing it before anything happened seems to us to be an extreme reaction.

      Reply
  15. We live in New Brunswick, Canada. Our pup found one this morning by our grape vines. First time we’ve seen one and didn’t know what it was. Got pics and then let go.

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  16. Kevin that is Interesting because we have some wild grapes behind the house. It is also where I put the caterpillar because it was a dense area that I thought offered protection. Maybe there is a link to grapes?

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  17. I live in Sudbury Northeren Ontario Canada and I took pics of 2 of these…not sure if they’re mates just only the 2 I found on my Virginia Creeper and grapevine

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  18. Just found two adults mating on a porch chair in Wolseley neighbourhood of Winnipeg. Will watch our Virginia creeper closely this summer!

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  19. Just found a large moth in our yard. We live in the St. Boniface area and have Virginia Creeper in our yard and grapevines in an adjoining neighbours yard.

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  20. We just discovered a few of these in our Virginia creeper in Garden City, Winnipeg! My son loves to identify caterpillars and we were delighted to find this page.

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  21. After a thunderstorm last night, I found 8 of them on my deck along with lots of little poops. I have virgins creeper on a pergola above. I’m a bit worried for the vine as it has a fungus too. Hopefully their feeding is done very soon! I live in Charleswood.

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  22. I discovered one on my virignia creeper yesterday – it was the size of a cigar (Furby south of Sargent). Judith

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  23. I, too, have found a number of these caterpillars on my Virginia Creeper in the Charleswood area of Winnipeg…including the form with the large green spots.

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  24. We have found five in our Englemans ivy vine and eggs on leaves on a nearby tree that overhangs the ivy. They are eating their way through.Can we treat in any way?

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  25. Have found 2 feeding on a Virginia Creeper. Noticed them when they were bluish and now are huge, brown and 1-eyed. I live in Ile-des-Chenes, Manitoba.

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  26. I found one of these creepy caterpillar and it keeps making a weird noise it’s like a buzz sound and then turns at a different direction it looks like a snake to me

    Reply
  27. I live in northern Michigan, I found one of these strange snake like caterpillars on my garage floor. It was poised in an aggressive posture like a snake. Very interesting looking creature with a camera like eye in its tail. Does anyone know what they eat? I would like to keep it to find out what it turns into.

    Reply
  28. I had them for last 6 years or so. Lots of them! They are attached to my vines and within a few weeks the vines are just sticks. I’m in Winnipeg Manitoba. I am thinking I will move them somewhere else??

    Reply
  29. Just found one of these caterpillars on my Virginia Creeper in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I took a couple of pictures but don’t know how to include them here.

    Reply
  30. I found one of these creepy freaky looking critters today. I had never seen one before and sent pictures to my go to guy for all things Aboriculture. He ID’d it for me. After reading what they eat it makes sense…Virginia creeper was prevalent throughout the yard. I swear it had a tongue and I heard it hiss…I left it where I found it and hoped it wasn’t a harmful critter. Glad I left it alone. Winnipeg, Manitoba in River Heights area.

    Reply

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