Pandorus Sphinx Moth Poisonous? Debunking the Myth

The Pandorus Sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus) is a large, fascinating insect that often captivates the attention of gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike. Sporting wingspans of up to 4.5 inches, these moths are known for their distinct patterns and, in some cases, a mossy green tinge on their wings source.

While many people are curious about whether these moths are poisonous, it is important to note that the adult Pandorus Sphinx moths are not poisonous. However, the larvae or caterpillars of some sphinx moth species can pose a threat to certain plants, as they are known to feed on foliage and cause damage in gardens source.

Pandorus Sphinx Moth Overview

Identification

The Pandorus Sphinx moth, scientifically known as Eumorpha pandorus, is a fascinating species belonging to the Sphingidae family. It is native to North America and can be found in various regions across the continent. They are characterized by their vibrant colors and unique patterns, making them easily distinguishable from other moths.

Their appearances vary, with some individuals exhibiting:

  • Mossy green tinge, sometimes appearing pink or white
  • Distinctive patterns and colors on their hind wings
  • Wingspans of up to 4.5 inches for females, slightly smaller for males

The forewings of the Pandorus Sphinx moth display interesting patterns that aid in identification. These patterns include:

  • Dark brown or gray forewings, variably suffused with light gray
  • Jagged subterminal lines emphasized by pale scales in the terminal area of the forewing

Pandorus Sphinx moths are just one of the many remarkable species within the sphinx moths group. While other sphinx moths share some of the Pandorus Sphinx’s characteristics, a quick comparison highlights differences:

Moth Species Color Forewing Features
Pandorus Sphinx Pink, green, or white Mossy green or pink, with jagged subterminal lines
Hog Sphinx Gray or brown Lack subterminal lines, distinct banding

In summary, the Pandorus Sphinx moth is a captivating and easily recognizable moth species native to North America, identifiable by its unique colors, patterns, and wing features.

Life Cycle and Development

Eggs and Larvae

The life of a Pandorus Sphinx moth begins as an egg. These eggs are laid by the female moth on the leaves of host plants, primarily grapevines and Virginia creepers. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae, or caterpillars, emerge and start feeding on the leaves. The caterpillars are green and have a long, curved horn (also known as a caudal horn or tail) at the end of their abdomen. During this stage, the caterpillars go through several instars, or developmental stages, shedding their skin as they grow. In each instar, the color of the caterpillar may vary, and some may have yellow stripes along their bodies.

Pandorus Sphinx caterpillar features:

  • Green color
  • Long, curved horn/tail on the abdomen
  • Can have yellow stripes

Pupa and Adult

After reaching maturity, the caterpillar forms a pupa, usually in the soil beneath the host plant. It remains in the pupal stage for about 2 to 3 weeks. From the pupa, an adult Pandorus Sphinx moth emerges. These moths are in the family Sphingidae and have a long, slender abdomen and a wingspan that ranges from 3 to 4 inches. The adults are strong fliers with elongated forewings, often featuring shades of brown, green, or pink. These moths are most active at dusk, hovering around flowers to feed on nectar through their long proboscis.

Pandorus Sphinx moth characteristics:

  • Family Sphingidae (Lepidoptera order, Insecta class)
  • Long, slender abdomen
  • 3 to 4-inch wingspan
  • Elongated forewings
  • Active at dusk

Comparison of Pandorus Sphinx moth life stages:

Stage Features
Eggs Laid on host plant leaves; hatch into caterpillars
Caterpillars Green with long, curved horn/tail; feed on leaves; go through several instars
Pupa Formed in soil; lasts 2 to 3 weeks
Adult Moth Long, slender abdomen and elongated forewings; 3 to 4-inch wingspan; active at dusk

It’s important to note that Pandorus Sphinx moths are not considered poisonous and their caterpillars pose no threat to humans. They mainly feed on foliage and occasionally on fruits, making them minor pests in some areas.

Habitat and Distribution

The Pandorus Sphinx Moth (Family Sphingidae) is a large, striking moth with a notable distribution across North America. It can be found in habitats ranging from southern Texas to Wisconsin, Nova Scotia, and southern Ontario1. Typical habitats for this moth include woodlands, open or wooded areas near rivers, and suburban gardens2.

Adult Pandorus Sphinx Moths are active from early spring to mid-summer, with wingspans reaching up to 4 ½ inches1. They have a mossy green tinge and sport brown, intricate patterns on their wings1. The moths have long proboscises and are known to fly from flower to flower, feeding on nectar3.

Species characteristics:

  • Potentially large wingspan: up to 4 ½ inches
  • Colors: mossy green and brown
  • Distribution: North America
  • Habitat: woodlands, riverbanks, suburban gardens

The larvae of the Pandorus Sphinx Moth feed on Virginia creeper and wild grapes4. These moths are not considered poisonous or harmful to humans, so no need to worry if you encounter one.

Interaction with Humans and Environment

Gardens and Vineyards

The Pandorus Sphinx Moth, known for its camouflage, feeds on a variety of plant species in gardens and vineyards, such as Vitis spp., Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and Ampelopsis spp. Their larval stage is known to feed on foliage of these plants, including grapevines (Vitis spp.) and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

While some damage to plant leaves might occur, it is typically not severe enough to significantly impact the health of the plants.

Attraction to Lights

Pandorus Sphinx Moths are attracted to lights at night. They are often found near residential areas, drawn to porch lights and streetlights.

Conservation Status

The Pandorus Sphinx Moth is a common species with a wide distribution, ranging from Nova Scotia to South Florida and South Texas. There is no known threat to their population, and no conservation concerns at this time.

Key Features:

  • Green to brown caterpillars
  • Camouflage with foliage
  • Attraction to light
  • Wide distribution
  • No serious threat to plants

Common Host Plants:

  • Grapevines (Vitis spp.)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
  • Ampelopsis spp.

Comparison Table:

Feature Pandorus Sphinx Moth Hawk Moth
Size Medium Large
Color Green, brown, tan Various
Habitat Gardens, vineyards Meadows, forests
Flight Nocturnal Nocturnal

Please note that the Pandorus Sphinx Moth is not known to be poisonous and does not pose any significant threat to humans or the environment.

Footnotes

  1. https://uwm.edu/field-station/pandorus-sphinx/ 2 3

  2. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hawk_moths.shtml

  3. https://naes.agnt.unr.edu/PMS/Pubs/1434_2020_01.pdf

  4. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/FRUIT/PESTS/spinxmoths.html

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

what’s this?
Hi
I write for a local news paper on the Outer Banks of N.C. I spotted this fascinating creature on the beach, perched on the piling under a pier. Any idea what it is? Thanks for your help.
Megan Shaw

Hi Megan,
We hope our little trip home to hot and humid Ohio to plant tomatoes for mom did not interfere with you doing a newspaper article on the lovely Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus. The Pandorus Sphinx is sometimes mistaken for a hummingbird because of its color, shape and flight pattern. Caterpillars feed on grape and Virginia creeper.

Letter 2 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Large moth
Location: Long Island, New York
July 12, 2012 7:23 am
I was on my way home from a friends house when I saw this guy in his back yard. The wings were about 4”-5” across. I looked in the bug guide and the shape and pattern looks like one of the sphinx moths. I’m just posting to see if I can get a confirmation. Also, it didn’t move for two days and was gone by the second night.
Signature: Phil

Pandorus Sphinx Moth

Hi Phil,
You are correct that this is a Sphinx Moth.  It is the Pandorus Sphinx,
Eumorpha pandorus, and you can get some excellent information on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  If you are interested in learning more about your local moths, you should research your nearest National Moth Week public event. 

Letter 3 – National Moth Week Sighting in Ohio: Polyphemus Moth and Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Two big beautiful moths
Location: Dublin, Ohio
July 24, 2013 1:11 pm
Took the kids to the playground at the local elementary school today, these two big beautiful moths were hanging out in doorways on the school. I know I’ve seen similar pics on your sight before, but I can’t name them off the top of my head. Please enjoy the pics!
Signature: Amber

Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus Moth

Hi Amber,
What a spectacular and timely sighting during National Moth Week 2013.  Your sighting is also heavy on the Greek mythology.  You have sighted a Polyphemus Moth and a Pandorus Sphinx.

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Letter 4 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Lime Hawkmoth
Location: Southwestern PA
July 15, 2014 7:39 pm
I believe I have found a lime hawkmoth. I have the specim if it is an actual hawkmoth. I seen in one of the forums that no one has caught one yet. I have a live one and I’m not sure what to do about it.
Signature: C. Kessler

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Dear C. Kessler,
You have misidentified your moth.  This is not a Lime Hawkmoth which is a European species, though we did receive one report of a sighting from Pennsylvania in 2009.
  Your moth is a North American species, the Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus.  The Sphingidae of the Americas site has additional information on the Pandorus Sphinx.  You should release the moth and let it live out its life by mating and reproducing.

Letter 5 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Can you identify this?
Location: South central Mississippi
August 18, 2014 8:46 pm
Found this on shop door in south central Mississippi in August.
Signature: Dawn

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Hi Dawn,
This gorgeous moth is a Pandorus Sphinx.

Letter 6 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Pandora Sphinx Moth in PA?
Location: Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
October 2, 2014 8:07 am
Hey, guys. I just read your article on the two species, and I’m not 100% sure whether this is a Lime Hawkmoth or a Pandora Sphinx. I noticed him clinging to a stone wall on my walk home from work a couple of weeks ago, thought he was very beautiful, and snapped a picture for my photography portfolio. I’ve never seen a moth like this around here before. I live out in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.
Signature: Sierra Stashek

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Hi Sierra,
Your moth is definitely a Pandorus Sphinx, and not a Lime Hawkmoth which is a European species.  We reported on an isolated incident of a Lime Hawkmoth in Pennsylvania several years ago, but to the best of our knowledge, the species is not established in North America.
  We recently posted an image of the Caterpillar of a Pandorus Sphinx.

Letter 7 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: lime hawk moth
Location: Bellefontaine, Ohio
July 26, 2016 2:30 pm
Is this a lime hawk moth ?
Signature: hoot

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Hoot,
The Lime Hawkmoth is a European species.  This is a Pandorus Sphinx.  Though they are both green, their markings are distinctly different.

Letter 8 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: What kind of moth
Location: Asheville
August 16, 2016 8:19 pm
This moth flew into our basement tonight. Beautiful! It’s hard to tell the scale from the picture but it was about Luna Moth size. We live in Western North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains.
Thanks!
Signature: Molly

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Molly,
This beauty is a Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus, a species that if found throughout the entire eastern portion of North America.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of peppervine (Ampelopsis spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).”

 

Letter 9 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: strange bug that looks like dead leaves
Location: woodbridge, ontario (canada)
October 12, 2016 8:06 am
Hello
In Ontario, Canada
October 12, 2016
Saw this bug resting on wall
What is it??
Signature: Ivana

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Ivana,
This lovely Hawkmoth is a Pandorus Sphinx, and sadly, your image lacks the type of clarity needed to really appreciate the beauty of this species.  Interestingly, we have several images on our site that also use bricks as a nice sense of scale, including this individual from Tennessee and this Pandorus Sphinx from Ohio sighted during National Moth Week in 2013.

Hello Daniel.  Thank you for your reply
I did not want to frighten it yesterday so did not approach closely.  It is still resting in the same spot this morning.  I approached closer and took this picture for you
My concern is the colder weather.   Will this hawkmoth survive?

Pandorus Sphinx
Pandorus Sphinx

Hi Ivana,
Thanks for sending a higher quality image.  Hawkmoths are relatively long lived, for moths, but we are speculating six weeks would constitute a long life for a Hawkmoth.  Insects are amazingly resilient to fluctuations in weather, but we imagine by the time winter sets in, the life of this individual will have ended.

Letter 10 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Oleander Hawk Moth
Location: Hanover Rd, Chesapeake
July 29, 2017 3:49 pm
I found what I thought was a dead leaf this morning in Chesapeake, Va. As I got closer I notice it was not a bug at all but a Moth, and what a striking Moth he or she was. I thought I share my Discovery with your site.
Signature: gigi

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Gigi,
You are not the first person submitting to our site who has mistaken a Pandorus Sphinx for an Oleander Hawkmoth.

Letter 11 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject: Whats that bug?
Location: Big Rapids, MI
August 16, 2017 4:55 pm
Found in Aug 2018 in Big Rapids, MI
Signature: Curious

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Curious,
This pretty green Sphinx Moth is a Pandorus Sphinx, a species found in much of eastern North America.

Very cool!
Thanks for your speedy response. He/she was the talk of my office yesterday! We had never seen one.
Have a great day!
Stephanie

Letter 12 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth ID
Geographic location of the bug:  Medina Ohio 44256
Date: 07/25/2018
Time: 05:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Have never seen one of these before.
How you want your letter signed:  Matt Richardson

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Matt,
This striking moth is an Pandorus Sphinx, and according to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of peppervine (
Ampelopsis spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).”

Letter 13 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Sphinx Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Mississippi
Date: 07/30/2018
Time: 10:47 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please help me and the kids identify this moth!  Possibly a Pandorus Sphinx?
Thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Scott

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Scott,
You are absolutely correct.  This beautiful moth is a Pandorus Sphinx.

Dan,
Thank you so much for the very fast response!  What a beautiful and fascinating creature this is!!
Sincerely,
Scott
Brandon, Mississippi

 

Letter 14 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Lime Hawk Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Just outside Philadelphia
Date: 10/02/2018
Time: 09:49 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We found this moth on our garage today. We looked it up and we think it might be a Lime Hawk Moth but they are not from Pennsylvania so we’re not sure how it got here. We live just outside Philadelphia.
How you want your letter signed:  Leslie

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Leslie,
This is a Pandorus Sphinx, a native species for you, not a European Lime Hawk Moth.  Many years ago, we posted an image of a Lime Hawk Moth found in Pennsylvania, but that appears to have been an isolated sighting.

Letter 15 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Brigantine, NJ USA
Date: 06/25/2019
Time: 02:47 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this unusual guy on the sign for the Brigantine Inn while on vacation in late June 2019.  Weather was warm but breezy, beach weather.  I would love to know what he is.
How you want your letter signed:  Curious bugger

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Curious bugger,
This is a Pandorus Sphinx, and according to BugGuide:  “An extra-spectacular sphinx moth.”

Letter 16 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Chester,CT
Date: 07/05/2020
Time: 11:38 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw this beautiful moth when I was out walking last week.  I am not sure the exact name of this bug, hoping you can help!
How you want your letter signed:  Heather S.

Pandorus Sphinx

Dear Heather,
This beauty is a Pandorus Sphinx, and according to iNaturalist:  “Female adults lay translucent eggs singly on leaves of the host plant, mainly
Vitis (grapes), and Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper). Caterpillars are large, green or red with a swollen third thorax segment into which the head and first two thoractic segments can be drawn. The abdomen has a small white spot on the second segment, and big white oval spots the last five spiracles. They also have the characteristic “horn” at the end of the abdomen, until it is replaced by a button in its last instar. Larvae consume copious amounts of foliage, and when they are ready they climb down their host plant and burrow underground, where they pupate. The pupa is dark brown in color, quite slender, and has a long cremaster. There the pupa will remain for either a couple of weeks or a couple of months, depending on the generation. When the pupa is ready, it wiggles to the surface just prior to eclosion. The newly emerged adults then climb on a plant or some other surface, and pump fluid into their wings to extend them. Females emit pheromones at night, and males fly into the wind to pick up and track the pheromone plume. “

Letter 17 – Pandorus Sphinx

 

Subject:  Lime Hawk moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Knightdale NC
Date: 08/19/2021
Time: 07:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This is supposed to be indigenous to the UK.
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks

Pandorus Sphinx

You are correct that the Lime Hawkmoth is native to Europe, but this is not a Lime Hawkmoth.  It is a native Pandorus Sphinx.  Nonetheless, there is an introduced population of Lime Hawkmoths in North America, with many Canadian sightings.

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

3 thoughts on “Pandorus Sphinx Moth Poisonous? Debunking the Myth”

  1. Thank you WTB and Phil for helping me identify my moth visitor to the patio the other night. It is always exciting to see something new in the yard. It must be the season for moths as a hummingbird moth “bumped” into me this afternoon!
    Love the website…and thank you again.

    Reply
  2. Thank you WTB and Phil for helping me identify my moth visitor to the patio the other night. It is always exciting to see something new in the yard. It must be the season for moths as a hummingbird moth “bumped” into me this afternoon!
    Love the website…and thank you again.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for helping me identify the caterpillar I found this morning. It looks exactly like the pinkish/orange one on your site. It has the single eyespot on one end and about 6 eyespots on each side. It seemed to be digging in the dirt, I assumed it was about to pupate. Pandorus Sphinx.

    Reply

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