Pink Spotted Hawkmoth: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts

The Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata) is a fascinating creature that belongs to the hawk moth or Sphingid family, which includes some of the largest moths in the world. These moths are known for their distinctive appearance and unique feeding behavior, often hovering near flowers to drink nectar using their long proboscis.

Pink-spotted hawkmoths have a striking appearance, featuring long, pointed forewings and a light brown body adorned with white lines and spots. Their hind wings display a bold pink band on a dark brown background, creating a beautiful contrast. These moths are commonly observed in gardens, where they showcase their extraordinary hovering skills as they feed on the nectar of various flowers.

These moths not only play a crucial role in pollination, but they also serve as an excellent example of adaptation in the animal kingdom. Their agile flight and ability to hover like a hummingbird make them unique among their fellow Lepidopterans. Stay tuned to learn more about this intriguing species, its habitat, and its significance in our ecosystem.

The Pink Spotted Hawkmoth

Physical Characteristics

The Pink Spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata) is a fascinating member of the sphinx moth family. Let’s take a look at some of its key physical features:

  • Size: Some of the largest moths in the world
  • Appearance: Pink bands on its abdomen

The Pink Spotted Hawkmoth is quite an impressive insect when compared to other moth species. Not only is it a part of the Sphinx moth family, which contains some large moths, but it also has a distinct appearance with pink bands on its abdomen. These pink bands make it one of the more visually distinctive members of this moth group.

The large size and unique appearance of the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth makes it an interesting subject to study and observe. Overall, this moth species is an intriguing example of the incredible diversity found within the insect world.

Distribution and Habitat

Geographical Range

The Pink-spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata) has a widespread distribution, which includes areas such as:

  • North America (Canada, USA, Mexico)
  • South America (Argentina)
  • Caribbean
  • Western Europe (Portugal, UK)

It can also be found in specific regions like Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and British Columbia.

Natural Habitat

The preferred habitat of the Pink-spotted Hawkmoth varies between regions. For example:

  • In Arizona, they are often seen visiting blossoms of Datura at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
  • In Colorado, they may be found in open forests with a variety of vegetation types, where habitat mapping and modeling play a significant role in understanding their distribution (U.S. Geological Survey).
  • In the Caribbean, they thrive in both natural and disturbed habitats, as they are adaptive to various environmental conditions.

Pros and cons of the Pink-spotted Hawkmoth’s distribution and habitat:

Pros:

  • Wide geographical range
  • Adaptability to different environments

Cons:

  • May face challenges from habitat fragmentation or loss
  • Potential vulnerability to specific local threats (e.g., pesticide use)
Region Habitat Example
Arizona Datura blossoms at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Colorado Open forests with diverse vegetation
Caribbean Natural and disturbed habitats

Classification and Taxonomy

Order Lepidoptera

Pink-spotted hawkmoths belong to the Order Lepidoptera, which mainly includes butterflies and moths. Some key features of Lepidoptera are:

  • Scaly wings
  • Long, coiled proboscis for feeding on nectar
  • Four wings, two forewings and two hindwings

Johan Christian Fabricius, a Danish zoologist, classified these insects under Lepidoptera in the 18th century.

Family Sphingidae

Pink-spotted hawkmoths are part of the Family Sphingidae, also known as hawk moths or sphinx moths. Sphingidae is within the superfamily Bombycoidea.

Characteristics of Sphingidae include:

  • Large, heavy-bodied moths
  • Long, pointed abdomen
  • Tendency to hover near flowers when feeding

Here is a quick comparison of the classification levels relevant to pink-spotted hawkmoths:

Classification Level Name
Order Lepidoptera
Superfamily Bombycoidea
Family Sphingidae
Subfamily Sphinginae
Tribe Sphingini
Genus Agrius

Within the Sphingidae family, pink-spotted hawkmoths are classified under Subfamily Sphinginae and Tribe Sphingini. Their scientific name is Agrius cingulata, with the genus being Agrius.

Life Cycle

Eggs

The pink-spotted hawkmoth begins its life as an egg, laid by the adult female moth. These eggs are typically laid on the leaves of host plants, such as Datura and other plant species. The development process is generally brief, hatching in about one week.

Larvae

Once hatched, the larvae (caterpillars) emerge and immediately start feeding on the leaves of their host plants. Pink-spotted hawkmoth caterpillars are known for their voracious appetites. The larvae undergo several growth stages known as instars, with each shedding its skin to accommodate its size increase. They complete these stages in just a few weeks.

Pupa

Upon reaching their final growth stage, the pink-spotted hawkmoth larvae enter the pupal phase. During this phase, the caterpillars spin a cocoon and transform into a pupa. The transformation takes a varying duration, typically several weeks, depending on the climate and season.

Adult Moth

The final stage of the pink-spotted hawkmoth’s life cycle is the emergence of the adult moth. As adult moths, their primary purpose is to mate and lay eggs, ensuring the continuation of the species. Adult pink-spotted hawkmoths are known for their distinctive wing markings and long proboscis, which they use to feed on nectar from flowers during nighttime hours. Mating occurs during the warmer months, and the adult moths have a relatively short lifespan, often living only a few weeks to a month.

Feeding and Diet

Larval Food Sources

The larvae of the pink-spotted hawkmoth, also known as the sweetpotato hornworm, primarily feed on plants from the Convolvulaceae and Solanaceae families. Some examples include:

  • Datura species (moonflower)
  • Ipomoea species (morning glories)
  • Petunia species (petunias)

These plants provide essential nutrients for the pink-spotted hawkmoth larvae to grow and develop.

Adult Food Sources

As adults, pink-spotted hawkmoths feed on nectar from various flowers. They have a preference for sucrose over fructose and glucose, which provides them with energy for flight and reproduction.

Common nectar-rich flowers that pink-spotted hawkmoths visit include:

  • Sweet potato flowers (Ipomoea batatas)
  • Moonflowers (Datura species)
  • Morning glories (Ipomoea species)
  • Petunias (Petunia species)
Nectar Source Plant Family Flower Type
Sweet potato Convolvulaceae Orange/Yellow
Moonflower Solanaceae White
Morning glories Convolvulaceae Various colors
Petunias Solanaceae Various colors

By visiting flowers and feeding on nectar, adult pink-spotted hawkmoths play a vital role in the pollination of these plants, ensuring their survival and reproduction.

Relationship with Humans

Hawk Moths as Pollinators

Pink-spotted hawkmoths are part of the hawk moth family, which are known to be important pollinators. They have a long proboscis to feed on nectar from flowers, often hovering near them. Naturalists can observe these fascinating creatures in open areas where flowers are abundant.

Some key features of hawk moths as pollinators include:

  • Long proboscis for nectar feeding
  • Hovering near flowers
  • Active in open areas with abundant flowers

Pink Spotted Hawkmoths as Pests

While some hawk moths like Manduca rustica do not cause significant problems, pink-spotted hawkmoths have been observed as pests in the U.S.. They can cause damage to plants and crops by laying eggs on them, with the larvae then feeding on the plant material.

Pros of pink-spotted hawkmoths:

  • Contributions as pollinators

Cons of pink-spotted hawkmoths:

  • Can be pests to some plants and crops
  • May cause damage through larval feeding
Feature Hawk Moths Pink Spotted Hawkmoths
Role in Ecosystem Pollinators Pollinators and Pests
Effect on Humans Mostly positive Mixed (positive and negative)
Typical Habitat Open areas with flowers Open areas with flowers
Importance to Naturalists High High

Additional Information and Resources

The pink-spotted hawk moth (Agrius cingulata) is a member of the hawk moths (or sphinx moths) family. These moths are characterized by their large size and long, pointed abdomens1. Here are some key features of the pink-spotted hawk moth:

  • Night-dwelling (nocturnal)
  • Wingspan ranging from 4 to 5 inches
  • Forewing and hindwing have a mix of black and brown coloration
  • Pink or fuchsia spots along the edges of the wings
  • Distinct eyespots on the hindwings2

These beautiful creatures have a wide distribution, ranging from Argentina to the southern United States3. Their habitat usually consists of areas with their preferred food sources, such as moonflowers.

To learn more about pink-spotted hawk moths and their related species, you can visit the following resources:

A comparison of the pink-spotted hawk moth and a related species, the hummingbird moth, highlights some differences:

Feature Pink-Spotted Hawk Moth Hummingbird Moth
Coloration Black, brown, and pink Reddish-brown
Wingspan 4 – 5 inches Slightly smaller
Nocturnal Yes No4

With this information and these resources, you can gain a deeper understanding of the impressive pink-spotted hawk moth and its role in diverse ecosystems.

Footnotes

  1. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/sphinx-moths-hawk-moths
  2. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hawk_moths.shtml
  3. https://www.fws.gov/species/pink-spotted-hawkmoth-agrius-cingulata
  4. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    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.

19 thoughts on “Pink Spotted Hawkmoth: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts”

  1. Good day. I found one of these in my back yard and it’s a beautiful specimen. Do they normally travel in the Southern California area?

    Reply
  2. RE: Honolulu, HI hawk moth caterpillars. I have many of the same on my Morning Glories in Kaimuki near Kapahulu 1.jpeg/Users/MariaMcClellan/Desktop/securedownload.jpeg
    /Users/MariaMcClellan/Desktop/securedownload.jpeg

    Reply
  3. RE: Honolulu, HI hawk moth caterpillars. I have many of the same on my Morning Glories in Kaimuki near Kapahulu 1.jpeg/Users/MariaMcClellan/Desktop/securedownload.jpeg
    /Users/MariaMcClellan/Desktop/securedownload.jpeg

    Reply
  4. just found the same caterpillar in my sweet potato bucket! Looked it up and found your image- same markings as the one you posted- green with brown markings like twigs down the sides! What did you do with yours? We don’t know whether it will form a chrysalis or if it is poisonous!

    Reply
    • According to Sphingidae of the Americas: “Larvae feed on plants in the Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in the Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in the Americas.” According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), jimsonweed (Datura spp.), pawpaw (Asimina spp.), and other plants in the Potato (Solanaceae) and Morning-glory (Convolvulaceae) families.” If you found the caterpillar on a palm, it was either a different species or it was not feeding.

      Reply
  5. Hi everyone we found one in our sweet potatoes patch. They are creepy looking and was worried about it attacking us in the middle of the night while we sleep, but after reading a few comments we will out it back in the yard to pupate.

    Reply
  6. We found this same looking caterpillar under our doorstep after the heavy rains…my daughter google imaged it and that’s how we found out what it was. We found it on 1/15 and I took it to school for my 3rd graders to witness the cycles and to learn about it. As of today 1/21 he is now in his cocoon and hopefully in 10 days we can witness it transforming !! My class is so excited as they have never seen anything like it, nor have I! What a great learning opportunity we have been blessed with to witness !!

    Reply
  7. Found on Big Island 8 miles outside of Pahoa in Puna District.
    We love our sweet potatoes and choose to feed it to the chickens.

    Reply
  8. I found a few of these horn worms on my morning glory plants a couple of weeks ago. It took a while to find an identification of them where I live as I believe they are more typically found in southern US. I live in New Hampshire and we were having pretty cold nights already. I re-homed a couple of them indoors right before they were entering their pupa phase. They’ve done really well and just formed their pupa where they will stay over winter. Looking forward to seeing them transform in the spring!

    Reply

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