Are Sphinx Moths Rare? Uncovering the Truth About These Elusive Insects

Sphinx moths are fascinating creatures known for their large size, heavy bodies, and unique flying patterns.

They play a crucial role in pollinating plant species, including the rare Queen-of-the-night cactus and the sacred Datura, which reside in northern Mexico and along the border of the desert southwest US Forest Service.

However, these captivating moths seem to be scarce in certain regions due to various factors.

Their population fluctuations could directly impact the pollination of specific plants.

Are Sphinx Moths Rare
Sphinx Moth: Smerinthus ophthalmica

Are Sphinx Moths Rare?

So, are sphinx moths rare? The answer may depend on the context and location.

In North America, the white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) is quite common, occurring throughout the continent from southern Canada to Central America Wisconsin Horticulture.

These moths have two flight seasons: one in mid-May and another in late August to September.

Their range and abundance make them less of a rarity in these areas.

However, they may not be as common in other specific regions or with other sphinx moth species.

Pros of sphinx moths:

  • Efficient pollinators
  • Intriguing flying behaviors
  • Some species are widespread

Cons of sphinx moths:

  • Hindered by habitat loss and agricultural practices
  • Limited population in certain regions

Overview of Sphinx Moths

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, belong to the Sphingidae family. They are usually large and heavy-bodied, with unique characteristics:

  • Long, pointed abdomen
  • Long proboscis for feeding on nectar
  • Forewings with various shapes and margins
  • Antennae with comblike extensions

These moths have a diverse range of appearances within their family. For example, the white-lined sphinx moth has vivid coral coloring on its wings.

Sphinx Moth: Smerinthus ophthalmica

Sphinx moths can be found around the world, with around 11,000 species in the United States alone.

Globally, there are about 160,000 cataloged species of moths. An estimated 200,000 or more species may exist but still await discovery.

In comparison, there are only 17,500 species of butterflies worldwide.

200,000+ species (estimated)17,500 species

Sphinx moths play an essential role in pollination by feeding on nectar from tubular flowers that are too deep for bees to reach.

During the larval stage, they are called hornworms, named after the pointy hook or horn on their tail.

In summary, sphinx moths are not necessarily rare but they do have a fascinating variety of appearances and unique characteristics.

They play a crucial role in pollination and display a wide range of shapes, colors, and sizes within their family.

Physical Characteristics


Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, are known for their large and heavy bodies.

They have a long, pointed abdomen, along with two other prominent features: antennae and legs.

  • Antennae: Gradually get wider, then narrow again toward the tip
  • Legs: Hold their body off the surface while resting

Mating Sphinx Moths: Adhemarius gannascus


Sphinx moths have two sets of wings: forewings and hindwings. Their forewings are generally long and pointed, while their hindwings can vary in shape and size.

Wingspans among sphinx moth species can have a significant range.

For example, the white-lined sphinx moth has a wingspan of 3.1 to 3.5 inches while other species can have larger or smaller wingspans.

Comparison of Wingspans

White-lined Sphinx Moth3.1 – 3.5 inches
Banded Sphinx Moth2.8 – 3.1 inches

Sphinx moths are covered in small scales, which give their wings and bodies color and pattern variations.

Due to this, they can have a broad range of appearances, from sleek and dark to vibrant and colorful.

In conclusion, sphinx moths are known for their large size, heavy bodies, and long wings.

They have varying wingspans and color patterns, thanks to their diverse scales. These characteristics contribute to their reputation as remarkable insects.

Sphinx Moths in Pollination

Relationship With Flowers

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, play a significant role in pollination.

They have a unique connection with flowers, especially those that bloom after dark. Let’s explore their relationship with flowers.

  • Flowers: Nocturnal and pale or white flowers attract sphinx moths, as they are drawn to their fragrance.
  • Nectar: These moths have a long proboscis (mouth tube) that allows them to feed on the nectar from tubular flowers.
  • Pollinators: As they hover near flowers and feed on nectar, sphinx moths act as essential pollinators during the night shift.
FlowersSphinx Moths
Nocturnal FlowersAttracted by their fragrance
Tube-shaped FlowersFeed on their nectar through a long proboscis
Pollinator RelationshipPlay a vital role in pollination during the night

Sphinx Moth: Which Eumorpha species???

Some examples of the flowers sphinx moths help pollinate include:

  • Moonflowers
  • Evening primroses
  • Trumpet vines

In summary, sphinx moths contribute significantly to the pollination process, forming a strong relationship with flowers through their attraction to fragrance, ability to hover, and feeding on nectar from tube-shaped flowers.

Identification of Sphinx Moths

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, belong to the Sphingidae family and include a variety of species such as white-lined sphinx moth, pandora sphinx moth, nessus sphinx moth, and snowberry clearwing moth.

Among the various species of sphinx moths, some are often referred to as hummingbird moths, clearwing moths, bee moths, or bee hawk moths due to their resemblance to these creatures.

Sphinx moths have a few common characteristics:

  • Large and heavy-bodied
  • Long, pointed abdomen
  • Forewings long and pointed, often narrow
  • Gradually widening antennae

A few examples of sphinx moths and their unique features include:

  • Hummingbird moths: Known for hovering near flowers and feeding on nectar
  • Clearwing moths: Possess partially transparent wings and resemble bees or wasps
  • Bee moths: Mimic the appearance and behavior of bees
  • White-lined sphinx moths: Characterized by their striking white lines on the wings and body

When identifying sphinx moths, consider their distinct markings and wing patterns, and observe their behavior to differentiate them from other similar species.

Laurel Sphinx Moth

Comparison Table:

FeatureHummingbird MothsClearwing MothsBee MothsWhite-lined Sphinx Moths
Body ShapeHeavy-bodiedSleekHeavy-bodiedHeavy-bodied
Wing TransparencyNoYesNoNo
Resemble Other SpeciesHummingbirdsBees & WaspsBeesN/A
Markings & PatternsUnique to speciesMinimalUnique to speciesWhite lines

By understanding these features and differences, identifying sphinx moths and their various types can be a straightforward process.

Behavior and Habitat


Diurnal sphinx moths are active during daytime hours. They can be found in various habitats, such as:

  • Forests
  • Tropics
  • Yards

These moths are often seen hovering near flowers, feeding on nectar using their long proboscis 1. A common example of a diurnal sphinx moth is the Hyles lineata, or the white-lined sphinx moth.

Sphinx Moth: Smerinthus ophthalmica


Nocturnal sphinx moths, on the other hand, are active during night hours. Like diurnal moths, they can also be found in a range of habitats:

  • Forests
  • Tropics
  • Yards near homes

While nocturnal sphinx moths also feed on nectar, they are drawn to tubular flowers that are too deep for bees to access 2. The large size and mottled brown coloration of these moths help them blend in with their surroundings.


Crepuscular sphinx moths are active mostly during dawn and dusk. These moths inhabit similar environments as their diurnal and nocturnal cousins:

  • Forests
  • Tropics
  • Yards

Just like diurnal and nocturnal sphinx moths, crepuscular moths hover near flowers, feeding on nectar through their long proboscis.

Comparison Table

Activity TimeExamplesHabitatsFeeding Behavior
DiurnalWhite-lined Sphinx MothForests, Tropics, YardsHover near flowers, feed on nectar
NocturnalMottled Brown Sphinx MothsForests, Tropics, Yards near homesAccess deep tubular flowers for nectar
CrepuscularForests, Tropics, YardsHover near flowers, feed on nectar

Larval Stage


Sphinx moth caterpillars, also known as hornworms, have diverse diets depending on the species.

They typically feed on the leaves of their host plants. Examples of their diets include:

  • Tomato hornworms: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants
  • Tobacco hornworms: tobacco, tomatoes
  • Monarch caterpillars: milkweed

Sphinx Moth: Protambulyx strigilis

Host Plants

Sphinx moths have various host plants, which are essential for their survival and growth during the larval stage. Some common host plants include:

  • Tomato hornworm: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants
  • Tobacco hornworm: tobacco, tomatoes
  • Monarch caterpillars: milkweed
  • Other sphinx moth caterpillars: phlox, nectar flowers
CaterpillarHost Plant(s)
Tomato hornwormtomatoes, peppers, eggplants
Tobacco hornwormtobacco, tomatoes
Monarch caterpillarsmilkweed
Other sphinx caterpillarsphlox, nectar flowers

Although sphinx moths are not considered rare, their caterpillars are not as frequently seen due to their efficient camouflage and specific host plants.

By understanding their larval stage and the host plants they rely on, we can better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and preserve their habitats.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, have a distinct life cycle that consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Females lay their eggs singly or in a loose group, depending on the species.

Larvae, often referred to as caterpillars, feed on various host plants. Some examples include:

  • Moonflowers: These nocturnal blooming flowers are a favorite of sphinx moth caterpillars.
  • Four-o-clocks: Colorful trumpet-shaped flowers that offer sustenance to larvae.
  • Vineyards: Certain sphinx moth species are known to feed on grapevines in vineyards.

As the caterpillars grow, they will eventually pupate. This involves forming a protective cocoon where the larvae metamorphose into adult moths.

Pupation often occurs in organic litter on the ground or below the surface of topsoil.

Hawkmoth: Marumba quercus

Adult sphinx moths are large and heavy-bodied with a long, pointed abdomen.

Their wings are usually long and pointed, and they feed on nectar using a very long proboscis.

Some characteristics of sphinx moths include:

  • Large, stout-bodied moths
  • Forewings that can be long, narrow, and triangular
  • Often hover near flowers to feed on nectar
  • Furry bodies with distinct patterns or markings

In conclusion, sphinx moth reproduction and lifecycle involve a fascinating transformation from eggs to larvae, to pupae, and finally adult moths.

These insects play a crucial role in pollination and serve as an essential food source in the ecosystem.

Remember to appreciate their beauty and importance while practicing ethical and sustainable pest management in gardens and vineyards.

The Role of Sphinx Moths in the Ecosystem

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, play a crucial role in the ecosystem. Being nocturnal creatures, they are active pollinators of various plants, including night-blooming flowers.

They have a long proboscis, allowing them to reach nectar from deep inside flowers, similar to hummingbirds1.

Their size varies, with some being as large as butterflies, while others may be the size of bees.

Sphinx moths can be found worldwide, including regions such as Asia and North America2.

Death’s Head Hawkmoth

Some species of sphinx moths are considered rare, making them valuable to researchers.

When it comes to the food chain, sphinx moths are an essential link. They serve as a food source for predators, such as birds and bats3.

Their caterpillars are large and, due to the horn-shaped protuberance on their posterior end, are sometimes called hornworms4.

Here’s a comparison table of some characteristics between sphinx moths and butterflies:

Comparison AspectSphinx MothsButterflies
Active TimeMostly nocturnal (nighttime)Diurnal (daytime)
Proboscis LengthLongerShorter
AtlasCan be rareGenerally more common

Some features of sphinx moths include:

  • Ability to hover while feeding
  • Rapid wing movement
  • Strong flying capability

The role of sphinx moths in the ecosystem, as pollinators and part of the food chain, cannot be overstated.

Though some species may be rare, their contributions to both the plant and animal kingdoms make them vital for maintaining ecological balance.

Pest Control

Sphinx moths, including the nessus sphinx moth, are a unique family of insects. They are typically only minor pests in gardens.

Damage caused by sphinx moths varies. Their larvae, however, can chew and feed on foliage. This leads to some damage to plants like squash.

Freshly Eclosed Sphinx Moth

Pros of sphinx moth presence:

  • Pollinators; play essential roles in ecosystems.
  • Beautiful moths; add diversity to gardens.

Cons of sphinx moth presence:

  • Minor damage; caused by larval feeding on foliage.
  • Occasional damage; to fruits or vegetables.

Most sphinx moth species have 1 to 3 generations per year. Their impact is often not significant enough to warrant control measures.

However, if control is necessary, some methods include:

  • Removing plant debris; reduce potential for breeding sites.
  • Physical removal; handpick larvae off affected plants.

There are different species and sometimes hybrids within the sphinx moth family. Comparison:

Nessus SphinxMedium-sizedNorth America
Hybrid SphinxVariesLink
  • Nessus Sphinx: medium-sized, usually with bright green or pink markings.
  • Hybrid Sphinx: varies in size and coloration due to hybridization.

At the end of the day, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of managing sphinx moth populations.

Consider their role as pollinators and striking appearances against the minimal damage caused by larvae.

Additional Information

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths or sphingids, can be found throughout various parts of the world, including North America, Central America, and the tropics1.

They are known for their large, heavy bodies and long, pointed abdomens, as well as their extraordinary hovering abilities when feeding on nectar with their long proboscis2.

Although not all species of sphinx moths are rare, some are less commonly seen, such as the luna moth, cecropia moth, and io moth3.

These moth species differ in several aspects:

  • Luna moth (Actias luna): Known for its large lime-green wings and long tails4.
  • Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia): North America’s largest native moth, with a wingspan of up to 6 inches5. They have striking, brightly colored patterns on their wings6.
  • Io moth (Automeris io): A smaller, colorful moth with distinctive eyespots on its wings7.

Sphinx moths are also crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active during twilight hours8.

Their nutritional resources mainly consist of nectar from flowers9.

Sphinx moths have unique antennae that gradually widen before narrowing again towards the tip, allowing for better sensory input when locating food sources10.

In summary, while not all sphinx moth species are rare, some impressive species like the luna moth, cecropia moth, and io moth are less commonly seen.

They have distinct characteristics and display remarkable abilities, such as hovering and navigating in low light conditions thanks to their impressive antennae.

Sphinx Moth: Theretra queenslandi


  1. Sphinx Moths (Hawk Moths) – MDC Teacher Portal 2 3

  2. Mysteries of the Sphinx Moths | Missouri Department of Conservation 2 3

  3. Wisconsin Horticulture 2

  4. Entomology and Nematology Department 2

  5. Cecropia Moth

  6. Hyalophora cecropia: Cecropia Moth

  7. Io Moth

  8. Crepuscular

  9. Sphinx Moths (Hawk Moths)

  10. Sphinx Moths or Sphinx Moths (Sphingidae)


Sphinx moths are fascinating insects that have many adaptations and ecological roles. They are not rare, but they are often overlooked or mistaken for other creatures.

Some sphinx moths are pollinators, while others are pests. Some sphinx moths have striking colors and patterns, while others are cryptic and camouflaged.

Sphinx moths are a diverse group of lepidopterans that deserve more attention and appreciation from humans.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about sphinx moths. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Sphinx: Proserpinus terlooii

Vega Sphinx Moth?
Good Day!
I found your site while trying to ID this pretty, VERY green sphinx moth, and think I found it thanks to your links, at:
So, I wondered if you’d like to see my photo, since I don’t see this moth on your site.

This photo is NOT colour-retouched – she really IS this colour! I’ve had lots of other “hummingbird sphinxes”, but this one is quite a bit smaller and I didn’t see her fly, so I’m glad she has that “ruffle” where the hind wings peek out or I’d not have known how to start searching.

Although the “probable” egg host is evening primrose, those aren’t currently in bloom around my property (01aug05), so I hope she isn’t in a hurry to lay eggs – my potted tomato plant is full of “spots”, however, so maybe she is the culprit?

There are lots of ripe/rotting prickly pear fruits, so I wonder if she’s feeding on those…. Thank you SO much for your generous sharing of time and talent to create your website for the rest of us!

As many others have written, I only wish I’d known of your site years ago – would have saved me a lot of searching on many, many insects! I’m now off to see if I can put “names to faces” for many other photos I’ve currently got filed under “Mystery Insects”!
Green Valley , AZ (between Tucson and Mexico )

Hi elo,
So sorry about the delay in responding to your lovely photo. Our mom arrived the day your letter did and it somehow got lost in the shuffle for a week. Your photo of the Vega Sphinx, Proserpinus vega, is much more beautiful than the mounted one in the link you provided, and we are proud to post it.

Ed. Note: (11/21/2005) We just got the following correction from Jim Tuttle.
I enjoy scrolling through your website periodically, and from a practical point of view I am always looking for interesting records, food plants, and range extensions for the Sphingidae, although I always take notes of the Saturniidae too.

Good job, it is a useful tool for the nature lover or the frantic gardener. I casually noted two id’s that need correcting. Vega Sphinx from Green Valley 8/2/2005 is actually Proserpinus terlooii. Keep up the good work!!
Jim Tuttle

Letter 2 – Pachysphinx occidentalis

Giant Moth
I took a photo of the attached moth. What kind is it? I’ve never seen anything so BIG!
Yvonne Maiorca
Pomona, California

Hi Yvonne,
Pachysphinx occidentalis surely is a big beautiful Sphinx Moth. Come see our lecture at the LA County Fair on 24 September at 4 PM in the Fine Arts building in conjunction with the Fair Exchange Art Exhibit.

Letter 3 – Sphinx Moth in genus Protambulyx

hello, attached are a few photos of an unusual looking moth found in my backyard in hollywood, florida. at first glance, i thought it was just a dead leaf. when i went to shake it off my ferns it moved ever so slightly startling me.

after taking a closer look at it, i realized it was a moth of some kind. i have never seen anything like this in south florida. is this a common species of moth?
erika fischer

Hi Erika,
There are two species of Sphinx Moths in the genus Protambulyx that fly in Florida and look similar. We are not sure if this is Protambulyx strigilis strigilis or Protambulyx carteri. Bill Oehlke has images and information on both species on his amazing website.

Letter 4 – Sphinx Moth from Costa Rica: Eumorpha phorbas

What is this Beautiful Bug?
Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 6:09 AM
When I first saw the Bug I thought it was a Big Green Grasshopper. It was about 4inch long 2 to 3 inches across, wider with its wing span. I took the picture’s at night, last May.

The Bug was just sitting on the wall of the beach house I was renting in Costa Rica (Limon Provence) close too Boca del Rio Estrella on the Caribbean Sea.
Thank you for your Time,
Limon Provence, Costa Rica

Eumorpha phorbas
Eumorpha phorbas

Dear Beach,
Your moth is a Sphinx Moth or Hawk Moth in the family Sphingidae. The family name and Costa Rica led us to a website with many choices. At first, we thought your moth resembled the Gaudy Sphinx, so we decided to try members of the genus Eumorpha.

We quickly discovered Eumorpha phorbas on the Costa Rican Sphingidae site. There were photos of mounted specimens, but no information on the site. We then searched the name and were led to Bill Oehlke’s excellent site with photos of live specimens and information.

The species, which has no common name, ranges in Central and South America.  Oehlke writes:  “Eumorpha phorbas broods continuously with adults on the wing  every month of the year in Costa Rica and along the west coast of South America as far south as Bolivia. 

Adults nectar at various  flowers. Eumorpha phorbas larvae probably feed upon grapes  (Vitaceae), dogbane (Apocynaceae), or evening primrose (Onagraceae)  families. “

Letter 5 – Sphinx Moth from South Korea: Zena Hawkmoth

Huge moth, calling
Location: Gyeonggi-do Province, Gwangju City, South Korea
May 22, 2011 8:55 am
Dear Whats that Bug,
I found this on a morning walk a while back. I just remembered your site. It seemed to be calling, but it also seemed tangled in some strings (outside a laundromat). Maybe both?

I came back later (was on my way to work) and untangled it as well as moving it to a more moth-friendly location. You can’t see this in the photo, but the underside of the moth seemed laden with either eggs, mites, or maybe just really good insulation.
Signature: Ben, South Korea

Unknown Sphinx Moth

Hi again Ben,
We believe this is some species of Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae, but we are not certain.  We haven’t the time to devote to the extensive research that it might take to properly identify the species at this time. 

We may have time later and perhaps one of our dedicated readers will be able to supply a species identification.

Identification courtesy of Karl
May 24, 2011
Hi Daniel and Ben:
It looks like a Zena Hawkmoth (Langia zenzeroides). There are several similar subspecies with limited ranges, but L. zenzeroides zenzeroides appears to have the appropriate distribution (northern India, eastern and southern China, South Korea, northern Thailand and northern Vietnam). Regards.  Karl

Letter 6 – Rare Canadian Sphinx sighted in Wisconsin!!!

Subject: Sphinx moth ID please
Location: Door county, WI
July 3, 2012 6:05 pm
I found this sphinx moth on 6/16/12 in Door county, WI. Is it a Clemens and if so, any insight on them?
Signature: under my picture

Canadian Sphinx

Wow, this sighting has us excited.  You are correct, it is the Clemens or Canadian Sphinx, Sphinx luscitiosa, and according to the Sphingidae of the Americas website, it is rare.  From that site, we have gleaned that males take nectar during the day and only females are attracted to lights at night. 

It is also interesting that they are reported to feed on the fluids of rotting fish.  The food plants for the caterpillars are listed as “willow (Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula), apple (Malus), ash (Fraxinus), waxmyrtle (Morella), and northern barberry.” 

We will copy Bill Oehlke on this reply in the event he can add any information and he also may request permission to reproduce your photo on his excellent website.  BugGuide also provides this information:  “Global Rank: G3 – Very rare or local throughout its range, or found locally in a restricted range (21 to 100 occurrences). Threatened throughout its range.”

Letter 7 – Sphinx Moth: Which Manduca species is it???

Subject: Huge bug on tomato plant
Location: Minnesota
July 9, 2012 10:54 am
I have no idea what this is. It looks like an enormous moth. I saw it this morning on my tomato plant. It didn’t fly away when I got close to it. It just clung to the leaf and was perfectly still.
My images aren’t real good because I took with my tablet.
Signature: Tara

Sphinx Moth: Carolina Sphinx or Five Spotted Hawkmoth???

Hi Tara,
This is one of two species of Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the genus
Manduca.  It is either the Carolina Sphinx or the Five Spotted Hawkmoth.  Both are found in Minnesota and both have large caterpillars known as Hornworms that feed on the leaves of tomato and related plants.

Hi Dan
Thank you for your quick response.  I kind of thought that is what it might be after looking at some images and information on the web.  Does the adult do any damage?

The odd this is that when I got home, it was still on the plant.  All the articles I read said that these guys aren’t often seen because they come out at dusk.  It was very bright and sunny in this location. 

I thought it might be dead and even pushed the planted around a bit to see if it would move.  It didn’t move an inch, but it finally left after I moved away.  Also, I took some better pics.
Here is the link
I have another one that I was hoping you could help with.

Hi Tara,
The other critter is a Grapevine Beetle.

Letter 8 – Silver-Striped Hawkmoth from Pakistan

Subject: Strange insect!
Location: Lahore, Pakistan, South Asia
December 7, 2012 12:01 pm
I found this strange insect out on my porche. It stayed in the SAME POSITION for about 1/2 days! Can you please identify it for me. It is goldenish in colour and has a sharp look.
Signature: Shaarif Sajid

Sphinx Moth

Hi Shaarif,
This Sphinx Moth greatly resembles a wide ranging North American species, the Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata.  They look similar to, but not identical to, these Striped Hawkmoths from Iraq

We took the liberty of color correcting your image and we hope you appreciate the results.  We will be grading a color correcting assignment this weekend for the Belmont High School digital imaging class.

Update:  February 9, 2014
We just received a comment that this is
Hippotion celerio, a wide ranging species known as the Silver-Striped Hawkmoth.  There is additional information on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaeartic site.

Letter 9 – Sphinx Moth from Indonesia is Agrius convolvuli

Subject: help me to identify this moth
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
January 9, 2014 3:29 am
hello there..
This morning around 11 am, i found a giant moth (size around 10cm long) stick on my clothes
he has big round black eyes, lot of hair on his wings and body, and he is quite heavy..
I never seen something like this before around my house
I am really curious and exciting about kind of this moth
I hope you will help me identified this moth..
thank you 🙂
Signature: Cilla

Sphinx Moth
Sphinx Moth:  Agrius convolvuli

Hi Cilla,
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but we are having a bit of trouble determining the species.  We decided not to give up just yet and we found a matching image on FlickR of
Agrius convolvuli, and we verified that on Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic which states: 

“Adults rest during the day on any solid surface, especially tree-trunks, fences, telegraph poles or bare earth. With wings folded roof-like over the body, they resemble a piece of weathered grey wood and are hence difficult to detect. Sometimes pairs can be found in such locations, but most, having paired towards midnight, part before dawn.”

Letter 10 – Carpenter Moth, NOT Sphinx Moth from Costa Rica

Subject: WTB????
Location: Golfito, Costa Rica
May 10, 2015 5:02 PM
Thank you WTB. I had sent another request for identification months ago. I never received a response. I realize you receive many requests, therefore, I thank you for this one.

Here are the pics of this guy. You can’t really see, but the end of the wings (I think) came out like a trunk. Also, found in Golfito, Costa Rica. We get a lot of interesting critters here.
Thanks so much.
Signature: Golfito

Sphinx Moth
Carpenter Moth

Dear Golfito,
This looks like a Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae.  We do not recognize it and we will attempt an identification.

We browsed through the individuals pictured on the Costa Rica page of the Sphingidae of the Americas, and though we could not locate a conclusive visual match, we believe this is a member of the tribe Dilophonotini. 

We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide an identification.

Bill Oehlke provides a correction
Hi Daniel,
It is not one of the Sphingidae. Don’t know which family it is in.

Update:  Carpenter Moth
Both Lepidopterist Julian Donahue and Insetologia webmaster Cesar Crash informed us that this is a Carpenter Moth,
Langsdorfia franckii.

Now, how cool is that? Thank you Daniel, WTB and Bill Oehlke!
Isn’t he a handsome looking moth? I just the great bugs we have here. ☺

Update:  December 17, 2015
I am so impressed with your desire to help a total bug novice .. how wonderful to be able to seek out the experts.
Thank you so much for the WTB identification. I will forward to all my bug loving friends.
Oh, do you think the photo is cool? I find it so interesting.


Letter 11 – Possibly Cramer’s Sphinx visits WTB?

We got some better images.

Possibly Cramer's Sphinx
Possibly Cramer’s Sphinx

Luckily it is cold out tonight, so the Sphinx did not mind that we rearranged its wings for some better images.  We have contacted Bill Oehlke and we eagerly await his input on the species.

Possibly Cramer's Sphinx
Possibly Cramer’s Sphinx

Subject:  Possibly Cramer’s Sphinx is new Mount Washington sighting
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
December 1, 2015 9:48 PM
When leaving the house today, we saw a large Sphinx Moth on the screen door, and at first we thought it was a Carolina Sphinx, but the markings on the wings were different and there were scalloped edges on the wings. 

We determined on the Sphingidae of the Americas site that it is a member of the genus Ello, possibly a Cramer’s Sphinx.  We took some images with the old digital camera with a flash and a zoom lens, but alas, the camera must finally be failing as the card is not readable. 

Undaunted, we pulled out a different camera, but the battery wasn’t charged and we managed to get one terribly underexposed image before the battery died.  The battery is charging and we hope to be able to get a better shot in an hour, and if luck is really with us, we can get an image in the morning by daylight. 

The images on the corrupted card were taken with a flash, and we managed to move the upper wing to show the orange underwing with the black edge, and hopefully we will be able to duplicate that result when the battery charges.  This is the best we can offer at this time.

Ello Sphinx
Possibly Cramer’s Sphinx

Letter 12 – Sphinx Moth from Spain is Marumba quercus

Subject: Large moth
Location: Near Casares, Andalucia
June 1, 2017 4:14 am
I saw this moth on the trunk of a cork oak tree, 1st June 2017 at about 11:00 AM. Located in a heavily wooded valley and it’s quite large , I would estimate up to 45mm long. Any ID would be appreciated
Signature: Garth Nicholson

Sphinx Moth

Dear Garth,
The best we can provide at this time is a family identification.  This is a Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae.  We will attempt a species identification for you.

Dear Daniel,
Thanks very much – I hope you can find the species,
Garth Nicholson

Update:  Cesar Crash has identified this Sphinx Moth as Marumba quercus.  According to Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic, the habitat is:  “Dry, sunny, wooded hillsides with a preponderance of young, shrubby oaks are favoured, usually in areas where the soil is of a light, gritty nature.

Occurs up to 1500m in Spain, but in Lebanon is restricted to around 1200m (the oak zone). Adults rest by day suspended amongst foliage where they resemble dead leaves.

A few may be found on tree trunks, especially Quercus suber (cork oak), having climbed there after emergence. It is here that mated females can sometimes be discovered, having parted from the male before dawn. As neither sex feeds in the adult stage, flowers have no attraction, although both sexes come to light.”

Many thanks for that ID – absolutely spot on.
Garth Nicholson


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

14 thoughts on “Are Sphinx Moths Rare? Uncovering the Truth About These Elusive Insects”

  1. Re: The Canadian Sphinx that was spotted in Door Co WI

    Last year a large green pokey worm like thing fell on us from our Ash tree. We put it in a cage used to hatch butterflies and it turned out to be the said moth mentioned today. We live in Madison, WI. I will try and find my photos, I didn’t think it was anything special but I was wrong!

    • The description indicates that they are rare but very local within their range. Often creatures can be very common in one location and the identical conditions a mile away will be noticeably bereft of the same species. If you appreciate their beauty, consider yourself very lucky. Also, you might want to see if there is a National Moth Week event near you. As moths go, Sphinx Moths can be very long lived. Six weeks is not unusual. They might still be flying in the vicinity in two more weeks.

  2. Assalam o Alikum,the above picture of moth is related from family:(Sphingidae:Lepidoptera), and belongs to the genus Hippotion,and the bioplogical name is Hipption celerio.

  3. This is a carpenter moth (family Cossidae, subfamily Hypoptinae) in the genus Langsdorfia. The genus currently contains some 23 species, but L. franckii is one of the more common ones in Central America.

  4. I saw a hummingbird Moth last evening.
    It hover before jasmine flowers and insert its long proboscis inside a flower for collecting necter….
    Its my 3rd encounter with this species in Swat Valley.

  5. I saw a hummingbird Moth last evening.
    It hover before jasmine flowers and insert its long proboscis inside a flower for collecting necter….
    Its my 3rd encounter with this species in Swat Valley.


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