Abbott’s Sphinx Moth Essentials: Your Quick Guide to Mastery

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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.


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.


  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)


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53 Comments. Leave new

  • Oh my gosh he’s so cute! He looks like a one eyed hungry baby snake!

  • 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:, 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.

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

  • 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

  • Claire Gingras
    July 15, 2013 5:40 am

    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.

  • Very scary creature. Do they bite? I had one strike at me several times.

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • Are they dangerous ?

  • are sphinx caterpillars poisonous

  • pete skalsky
    July 14, 2015 2:29 pm

    Are the abbot sphinx caterpillars native to northern Minnesota?

  • I saw one in my wash room and it was indeed aggressive. I tried to get it out and it kept flipping. Never seen one like that before so i had to research it, i live in Jamaica.

  • I have better photos if I could post them here it might help people avoid them better especially children

  • 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.

  • Forgot to put location. I live in Iowa. Jkd

  • I have found three on my creeper in Winnipeg-Windsor Park.

  • 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.

  • I found one on my creeper as well. Steinbach Manitoba

  • Just saw one near my creepers (established ones) in Deer Lodge, Winnipeg.

  • 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!

  • Ashley Sokal
    June 29, 2019 3:20 pm

    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

  • Charmaine Lyons
    July 5, 2019 7:31 pm

    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?

  • 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.

  • Also just found a large caterpillar Sphinx moth 5” long in our garden. Tyndall Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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!

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

  • Kevin Wright
    August 4, 2019 4:55 am

    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.

  • 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?

  • 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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Found one on my grape vine this weekend.

  • 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.

  • Judith Harris
    July 2, 2020 8:04 am

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

  • 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.

  • Found 1 near in the Virginia creeper in St. Vital
    (4” long).

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • David Harris
    July 4, 2021 8:03 am

    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.

  • 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??

  • Tracey Dampier
    July 18, 2022 7:23 am

    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.

  • 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.


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