Exploring the Diet of Sphinx Moths: A Quick Insight

Moths are fascinating creatures, and among them, sphinx moths stand out due to their unique appearance and behavior. You might be curious about these intriguing insects and wonder what they eat. You are about to discover the diet of sphinx moths, which will shed light on their role in the ecosystem.

Sphinx moths, sometimes known as hawk moths or hummingbird moths, mainly feed on nectar from flowers. They have a very long proboscis, similar to a tongue, that enables them to access the nectar in tubular flowers that would otherwise be too deep for other insects, such as bees, to reach source.

Understanding Sphinx Moths

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths and scientifically known as Sphingidae, belong to the Lepidopteran order. These fascinating creatures have a few unique features:

  • Long narrow wings and thick bodies
  • Fast flyers with excellent aerobatic skills
  • A long proboscis for feeding on nectar

If you’re wondering about their feeding habits, sphinx moths have a preference for flowers with long tubes or spurs. The reason is their long proboscis, which allows them to extract nectar effortlessly. Some species within the Sphingidae family have transparent wings due to a lack of scales, adding to their mystique.

Interestingly, the larval stage of sphinx moths is known as a hornworm. This name comes from the pointy hook or horn at the end of their tail. Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist, studied these creatures, contributing to our understanding of their behavior and biology.

In comparison to other moths, sphinx moths communicate through scent, or pheromones. They don’t need or have ears, although they do have pretty large eyes. These unique characteristics make them an especially intriguing subject for those with an interest in entomology.

So, next time you see a sphinx moth hovering near flowers, you’ll know they’re seeking out nectar with their uniquely adapted proboscis. These captivating creatures are an incredible example of the diversity found within the Lepidoptera order.

Physical Characteristics

Wings and Wingspan

Sphinx moths are known for their large, heavy bodies and narrow wings, allowing them to be agile fliers1. Their forewings are generally long and pointed, while some species have angled or irregular margins2. As for their hindwings, they tend to be a similar shape, helping them hover over plants3. For example, some sphinx moths can have a wingspan of up to 5 inches4.

Antennae and Long Proboscis

You’ll also notice the antennae of sphinx moths gradually widen and then narrow again towards the tip5. The moth’s most significant feature is their long proboscis, which is their mouth tube or “tongue”6. They use it to feed on nectar from flowers while hovering7.


Sphinx moths come in various colors, depending on the species. Some may have bright, vibrant shades, while others display more subtle hues8. They often mimic the appearance of other insects or blend in with their surroundings to avoid predators9.

Behavioral Traits

Sphinx moths are fascinating creatures with some unique behavioral traits. They are mostly nocturnal but can be found diurnal as well. These moths are known for their ability to hover while feeding on nectar from flowers. In this section, we’ll briefly explore some of these behaviors.

As nocturnal insects, sphinx moths are most active during the night. You might find them around your porch lights or other light sources. Their exceptional night vision helps them navigate and find food in the dark. However, there are also diurnal species that actively feed in the daylight hours. One such example is the white-lined sphinx moth, which can be seen buzzing around flowers during the day.

Sphinx moths exhibit a remarkable hover behavior, which is often compared to that of a hummingbird. This allows them to feed on nectar from flowers without landing. Their long proboscis serves as a feeding tube, letting them access the nectar while staying airborne.

The hovering ability of these moths is a result of their powerful and agile flight. They have long, narrow wings and thick bodies, enabling them to fly at speeds of over 30 miles per hour. Not only are they fast, but they are also highly maneuverable and can undertake swift changes in direction with ease.

To sum up, sphinx moths display impressive nocturnal and diurnal behaviors with superior hover and flight abilities. Their unique skills make them stand out among other moths and contribute to their efficient feeding habits.

Sphinx Moths Diet

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths or hummingbird moths, have a diet that mainly consists of nectar from various flowers. As caterpillars, they consume leaves of specific plants. Below is an overview of sphinx moths diet throughout their life stages.

As caterpillars, sphinx moths typically depend on a host plant for their nourishment. This is where they feed on the leaves to gain the energy needed for their metamorphosis. Some popular host plants for sphinx moth caterpillars are:

  • Tomato plants
  • Grapevines
  • Willow trees
  • Elm trees

During their adult stage, sphinx moths act as pollinators when they feed on nectar from flowers. They are known as nectar feeders and obtain their sustenance through their proboscis, which can be extremely long. This is how they reach the nectar inside the flowers, allowing them to pollinate as they move from one to the other. Some flowers they are commonly seen feeding on include:

  • Lantanas
  • Honeysuckle
  • Salvia
  • Trumpet vine

To summarize, sphinx moth caterpillars rely on their host plants’ leaves for nourishment, while adult moths primarily feed on the nectar of various flowers, playing a role in the pollination process. In both stages, they help maintain a healthy ecosystem and contribute to the growth of food plants.

Life Cycle of Sphinx Moths

The life cycle of sphinx moths starts with the female moth laying eggs on a host plant. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars emerge and begin feeding. Some commonly known sphinx moth caterpillars include the tomato hornworm and the tobacco hornworm. These caterpillars are large and colorful, featuring a small horn at the rear and strong legs that clamp onto plants1. They are also referred to as hornworms.

After a period of continuous feeding, the caterpillars pupate. During this transformation process, the caterpillar spins a cocoon and changes into a pupa. Most sphinx moth species overwinter as pupae, buried in the soil in a brownish case2. As the weather warms, the adult sphinx moths emerge from their pupae and the cycle begins anew.

In their adult stage, sphinx moths are usually heavy-bodied with long, pointed abdomens. They feed on nectar from flowers using their very long proboscis1. Some species have multiple generations per year, while others have only one2.

Here are some key characteristics of sphinx moths in bullet points:

  • Large and colorful caterpillars
  • Small horn at the rear of caterpillars
  • Pupate in a brownish case in the soil
  • Overwinter as pupae
  • Adult moths have long, pointed abdomens
  • Feed on nectar from flowers
  • Single or multiple generations per year

Remember, it’s always important to be aware of your local sphinx moth species and their potential effects on your garden or landscape.

Habitat and Distribution

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, can be found in various habitats across the globe. In the United States and North America, these moths thrive in forests, meadows, and even suburban gardens. They’re also known to inhabit deserts and tropical regions, stretching south into Central America. Some species can even be found in more remote locations like Madagascar and Eurasia1.

As you explore their habitat, keep an eye out for some key features:

  • Abundant flowering plants, where they feed on nectar
  • Leaves for their caterpillars to eat
  • Trees and shrubs for resting and camouflage

Within their geographic range, sphinx moths occupy different niches2. For example, some species prefer cooler, temperate climates while others are at home in arid, desert regions. It’s worth noting that their distribution is also influenced by the availability of suitable host plants for their caterpillars3.

Remember, a diverse range of habitat types and varied geographic distribution allow sphinx moths to maintain resilient populations throughout the world.

Species of Sphinx Moths

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths or hummingbird moths, are large, heavy-bodied, and fast-flying. They are known for their impressive hovering capabilities and long proboscis used to feed on nectar from flowers. There is a wide variety of sphinx moth species, each with unique characteristics and appearances. Here, we’ll briefly cover some common and notable species.

The White-Lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata), also called the white-lined sphinx moth, is an easily distinguishable species due to its striking olive brown and tan wing markings. With a wingspan of up to 6 inches, it’s one of the larger species.

Tobacco and tomato plants can be threatened by two species: the Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) and the Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta). These caterpillars are considered pests and can cause significant damage to crops.

The Rustic Sphinx (Manduca rustica) has a distinct appearance with its dark brown wings and yellow-orange patches. The rustic sphinx moth is a common species in North America and can be found in fields and gardens.

A visually striking species is the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis), which is one of the hummingbird moths. It has transparent wings, a bumblebee-like body, and a unique hovering behavior that resembles hummingbirds.

The Pandora Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha pandorus) has vibrant green wings, whereas the Luna Moth (Actias luna) stands out with its large lime-green wings and long, delicate tails.

Another interesting species is the Big Poplar Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta), bearing gray-brown wings and a body that camouflages well with tree bark. The Eyed Sphinx (Smerinthus cerisyi) has a unique defense mechanism: it exposes large eyespots on its wings to startle predators.

In conclusion, the sphinx moth family is diverse and fascinating, with each species boasting distinct features and characteristics. Whether it’s the unique hovering behavior of hummingbird moths or the captivating coloration and patterns on their wings, these moths are truly a marvel to witness in the wild.

Interactions with Humans and Environment

Sphinx moths are fascinating insects, known for their ability to hover like hummingbirds while feeding on nectar from flowers with their long proboscis 1. They play a significant role in the ecosystem, acting as pollinators for various plant species.

As pollinators, these moths help maintain plant populations in the environment by transferring pollen between flowers 2. This ecological service is beneficial to humans, as many of the crops we rely on depend on insects like sphinx moths for pollination. In some areas, sphinx moths have been known to be a critical pollinator for native plants, such as in the case of Native Americans relying on the pollination of wild tobacco plants by sphinx moths 3.

However, sphinx moths can sometimes have negative impacts on crops due to their larvae, known as hornworms. These larvae can cause significant damage to plants by feeding on their leaves, potentially resulting in outbreaks in agricultural fields if not managed appropriately 4.

In the interest of conservation, it is essential to find a balance between managing these potential pest outbreaks and preserving sphinx moth populations for their ecological role as pollinators. By educating ourselves about the importance of these insects and working to create habitats that foster their survival, we can contribute to protecting the environment and ensuring our own food security.

One way you can help sphinx moths thrive is by planting large, tube-shaped flowers in your garden 5. This not only provides a valuable food source for these moths, but also supports their role as pollinators in the environment.

Comparison Table

Sphinx Moths: Pros Sphinx Moths: Cons
* Act as pollinators for various plant species * Hornworm larvae can damage crops
* Contribute to biodiversity in ecosystems * Pest outbreaks may require management
* Help maintain plant populations

Unique Features and Adaptations

Sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths or hummingbird moths, possess several remarkable features that set them apart from other moth species. For instance, they have a long and pointed abdomen that enables them to hover near flowers while feeding on nectar.

Their large size and powerful wings allow them to maintain a higher body temperature, necessary to maintain their nocturnal activities. As a result, they are often drawn to night-blooming flowers, such as star orchids. These relationships are crucial for the pollination of certain plant species.

  • Hornworms: Sphinx moth caterpillars, known as hornworms, are so named due to the horn-like protrusion on their rear end. They resemble a sphinx statue while resting on branches, contributing to the moth’s name.
  • Colors and phenotypes: These moths exhibit a diverse range of dust-like colors and patterns, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. These adaptations serve as camouflage, protecting the moths from predators.

Here’s a comparison of some features between Sphinx Moths and other pollinators, such as butterflies:

Feature Sphinx Moths Butterflies
Active Time Night Day
Wing Shape Long and pointed Rounded
Proboscis Length Very long Varies
Types of Flowers Visited Night-blooming Day-blooming

In conclusion, Sphinx moths exhibit unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in their nighttime habitats. From long proboscises to the ability to maintain higher body temperatures, these fascinating creatures play a critical role in the pollination of night-blooming flowers.


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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 – Nessus Sphinx attracted to doggie doo!!!


bumble bee ant/hummingbird
June 6, 2010
Saw this bug out on my balcony in Chicago. It had the fast fluttering wings hummingbirds have with yellow and black stripes on it’s body, which looked like an ant or something similar. It landed on a pile of my dog’s poop and seemed to be… eating it I guess, for about 5 minutes before I threw a dog toy near it so I could get a picture of it flying around, then it flew away after I got these pics. I was a wuss though and took these from inside. Googled “bumble bee hummingbird” and learned there IS a species called this, but this thing didn’t look like those.
(Sorry about the poop in the pics , tried to crop them as best i could)

Nessus Sphinx feeds from dog feces

Hi Samantha,
We have been meaning to get back to you on this identification.  Your moth is a Nessus Sphinx, Amphion floridensis, one of several diurnal moths in the family Sphingidae that are frequently mistaken for hummingbirds.  According to the Butterfly Conservation website:  “It is thought that butterflies [and apparently moths as well] that are attracted to animal droppings are looking for the mineral supplements that they have in them

Letter 2 – Nessus Sphinx on Feces


Subject:  Sorry it’s on a poop!
Geographic location of the bug:  New Hampshire dog poop!
Date: 06/17/2019
Time: 12:32 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What the holy hell?  I love bugs but this one?!  I have no idea!
How you want your letter signed:  Horseygirl8872

Nessus Sphinx on Feces

Dear Horseygirl8872,
This is a moth known as a Nessus Sphinx, and we have numerous images on our site of Nessus Sphinx Moths nectaring on flowers, but none on feces.  Many butterflies and moths will take nourishment from fresh feces.  As they draw moisture, they also benefit from minerals and other substances that are expelled from the bodies of mammals.  BugGuide also has documentation of a Nessus Sphinx on dog feces, and we have this documentation in our own archives.

Letter 3 – Unidentified Hawaiian Sphinx Moth


a Hummingbird moth?? on O’ahu
I photographed this moth on my lanai yesterday and would like some help to identify it. Thanks

Hi Patricia,
Sadly, your moth was moving too quickly for us to be able to give you more than a general identification. It is a Sphinx Moth or Hummingbird Moth of some species. There is a great site that might help you identify your Hawaiian Sphinx. Sphinx Moths enjoy a worldwide distribution.

Ed. Note:  August 5, 2012
We are trying to clean up some unidentified postings and we now believe this is a Hummingbird Hawk Moth,
Macroglossum pyrrhostictaIt is listed as a species found in Hawaii on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, and Dave’s Garden has a nice action photo showing similar coloration and abdominal markings.

Letter 4 – Apple Sphinx Caterpillar


Great site, I’m hooked! I found this amazing creature in Dauphin Co. PA last week in a remote valley area. It was on a type of “bush” fern surrounded by mountain laurel and many other types of ferns in the forest. I know it’s a Sphinx but which one; Laurel, Wild Cherry, Blinded Sphinx? Speaking of blinded, I’m color blind and could use some help here…
chris updegrave

Hi Chris,
I believe you have the larva of the Apple Sphinx, Sphinx gordius. I looked up many websites to find an image that matched your photo, and finally located this site with an image of a parasitized caterpillar that looks like yours. At first I thought your Sphinx had no caudal horn, then I noticed it behind the leaves. It is very distinctive. Though called the Apple Sphinx, the food plants include are apple (Malus), sweetfern (Myrica), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), white spruce (Picea glauca), American larch (Larix laricina), and alder (Alnus). As you can see, fern is on the list.

Letter 5 – Poecila Sphinx Caterpillar


caterpillat ID help!
Ask that Bug!
I think I have incorrectly identified the attached photo as a Tobacco hornworm. None of my books are much help. It is the color that has me puzzled. The Sphinx Moth caterpillar is a reddish brown, but I do not see the “horn” on it, so if you can help, please do. Thanks a lot!
Ruth Smith

Caterpilar ID help #2
Dear Bug people!
I forgot to mention the locale of the previous photo….the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August. Also since the 1st e-mail, I have concluded that this may be in the family of Sphinx Moth Caterpillars, but not sure which one. They seem to prefer grape vines. Thisi s a willow branch, but it was eating and wiggling a lot! Thanks again for your help.
Ruth Smith

Hi Ruth,
We wrote back to you after getting your first letter with a request for additional information including location and food plant, without realizing that you had sent a second email. The location in Michigan was a tremendous help. We are relatively certain this is a color sport of the Peocila Sphinx, Sphinx poecila. Wow, a palandrome!!!!! We located an image on Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website that indicates he raised a group of caterpillars of the Poecila Sphinx and he noticed that: “One of the larvae was considerably darker than the others and upon moving into the fifth instar took on a dramatic, deep purple colouration. ” We will try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he agrees that this is a dark Sphinx poecila. Bill Oehlke quickly wrote back: “Yes, it is poecila” in confirmation of our identification.

Letter 6 – White lined Sphinx Caterpillar eating Fuschia


caterpillar needs identifying
Please please would you identify this caterpillar for me, I thought perhaps it was a swallowtail but cannot find anything that fits the markings. It was on my fuschias last summer in my garden on Vancouver Island. I have surfed and surfed! What a wonderful website.
Diane Sandland

Hi Diane,
Before we even opened your attached photo, we had guessed correctly that your caterpillar was a White Lined Sphinx Caterpillar, Hyles lineata. The tip-off was the host plant Fuschia. This is a highly variable caterpillar that has at least three recognized color variations.

Letter 7 – Bald Cypress Sphinx Caterpillar


sphinx moth perhaps?
I’ve gone through all 9 pages of caterpillar photos….and then asked my (adult) daughter to do the same and we didn’t locate this exact caterpillar but think it must be a sphinx of some sort? Thought we’d pass it along to you in case you can confirm. This one is located in south Florida (there was also another smaller one on the same tree, about a foot away), happily munching away on the new growth on a cypress tree.

Hi Pat,
Yes, this is a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, but we are unsure of the species. We are, however, very excited that we believe we may know what it is. We are making an educated guess, thanks to you providing us with a food plant and a location, those two items that really make identification easier. We believe this may be a Bald Cypress Sphinx, Isoparce cupressi, which we located on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website. Our doubt is based on the lack of a caterpillar image for the species. We will directly contact Bill Oehlke and get his opinion, and we suspect if our guess is correct, he may request permission from you to post your photo on his website as well. Your photo is of a very high quality as well as being artfully composed.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for thinking of me. Yes, it is Isoparce cupressi, and I have just uploaded an image from Vernon Brou. It would be nice to add this one as well.
Bill Oehlke

Letter 8 – Emperor and Questionmark Butterflies and Nessus Sphinx feed on fermenting tree sap at base of Oak Tree


bug identification please
We live north of Ft. Worth, TX and after all the rain, I am seeing these moths/butterflies? at the base of our Oak Trees. What is the white "goo" they are in a frenzy over? I’m guessing it is an egg mass. When I do a very close up, I think I see larvae.(among other trapped stuff). Could you help us identify them and tell us if they are good or bad for the trees. How do we get rid of them if we need to? Thank you,

Hi Kathy,
The butterflies in your photos are some species of Emperor Butterfly, probably the Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis. There are at least four members of this genus that can be found in Texas, and they all look very similar, though someone more versed in butterfly identification can probably give you an exact species. The moth is a Sphinx Moth, the Nessus Sphinx, Amphion floridensis. The butterflies, moth and various fruit flies and beetles have been attracted to the white goo. Hackberry Emperors feed on tree sap, fluids from carrion and dung, and rotting fruit. Another possibility is that this could be some type of fungus. Whatever it is, and sap is a good possibility, it is very attractive to many types of insects. Because of the fruit flies, fermentation might be involved. We believe you might need a tree expert to get this answer. We were just about to give you a personal reply when we realized you enclosed additional images. The large image below shows a large group of Hackberry Emperors with two Questionmarks, Polygonia interrogationis, one with open orange wings displayed. The other Questionmark is in the upper right corner (we rotated your image) and the silvery Questionmark is visible on the lower wing. Questionmarks, and other Anglewing Butterflies, have similar feeding habits to the Emperors, with sap, rotting fruit, carrion and dung topping the list of delicacies.

They would be feeding on fermenting tree sap.
Bill Oehlke

Update (07/06/2007) Appreciation and a correction…
Lisa and Daniel,
Thanks again for your fantastic site, which I visit every single day. Among the many great entries you just added (July 4?), I esp. love the proboscis sheath on the Rustic Sphinx…wow. The fermentation feeding frenzy photos are way cool too, and I think I have a correction in that the lowest photo seems to show a single Hackberry Emperor in a huddle of Question Marks, rather than the other way around. Keep it up! regards,
Dave Fallow
Madison, WI

Letter 9 – Tiger Moth from Brazil


3 more moths from Rio
December 5, 2009
Dear WTB
Here are three more ID queries from my Brazilian photo collection.
…  The second is a mystery – I can’t even place it in a family. About 3cm long. …  Any pointers you can give on the above would be gratefully received.
Nick P
SE Brazil, Rio de Janeiro

Unknown Sphinx we believe
Unknown Tiger Moth maybe

Hi Nick,
We tried looking through all the Sphinx Moths on the Sphingidae of Brazil website, and came up blank.  Hopefully, one of our readers can assist with this ID.  The size you indicate seems quite small for a Sphinx Moth.

Thanks Daniel,
It is not a Sphingidae, but I do not know the moth family for that one.
I suspect one of the tiger moths, but am not sure.
Bill Oehlke

Identification by Julian Donahue
Indeed, it’s an arctiid currently in the genus Lophocampa. There are many similar species in this group, a group badly in need of revision. When revised, this group of similar-looking moths may end up in several genera!
One similar species, currently known as Lophocampa annulosa, occurs as far north as Texas.
Julian P. Donahue

Hi Daniel
Thanks very much for the very prompt reply and the IDs. The two links are also much appreciated – I had not found the Guyana one before, possibly because it is in French! but the collection of photos is excellent.  I have already got a lead on one of the other pics I submitted (the black moth with larva in my previous message) which looks to be an Arctiid, a Ctenuchinid, possibly of the genus Ptychotrichos based on similar wing pattern.
I have already emailed Bill back and hopefully can send him some images for his site.
Many thanks

Letter 10 – Verdant Hawkmoth from Angola


What is this bug?
Location:  Offshore Angola, West Africa
October 13, 2010 12:51 am
Dear Bugman,
i met this beuty in an oil field located about 75 nautical miles off the coast of Angola. It is 5-6 cm. long.
Signature:  Geir

Unknown Sphinx Moth

Hi Geir,
We are going to post your letter and photo of a Sphinx Moth first and then try to identify the species.  Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths in the family Sphingidae are strong fliers and we are not surprised it was found out to sea.  Perhaps if we are not successful with a species identification, our of our readers will be able to supply an answer.

Hi Daniel and Geir:
I believe your moth is the aptly named Verdant Hawkmoth (or Verdant Sphinx Moth), Euchloron megaera (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae) It ranges throughout Africa and Madagascar. Regards. Karl

Letter 11 – Unknown Sphinx Moth may have been washed with the clothes


Subject: What is this bug? Butterfly and wasp look a like.
Location: Southern California
March 21, 2015 1:46 am
I was doing laundry when I found this bug dead on the ground next to the machine. I’ve never seen one before. It had a butterfly like mouth that was swirly, but it had a big long wasp like torso, but more brown. Its wings were also more like a wasps. This was in southern California. Help appreciated!
Signature: Wanderers Friend

Sphinx Moth
Sphinx Moth

Dear Wanderers Friend,
All we can say for certain is that this is a moth in the family Sphingidae.  All the wing and body scales have been removed, making identification from an image rather impossible, leading us to believe this Sphinx Moth may have been washed with a load of laundry.  Whitelined Sphinx Moth are currently quite plentiful on the wing in Southern California, so that is a very good candidate for an identity.

Letter 12 – Cypress Sphinx Caterpillar: Rare Sighting


Subject: caterpillar?
Location: Jacksonville Fl
April 11, 2015 5:10 pm
My mom found this caterpillar and was wondering what it turned into, it was found on the banks of the St. Johns river just south of Jacksonville Florida today.
Signature: Josh

Bald Cypress Sphinx Caterpillar
Cypress Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Josh,
We are very excited about your submission.  We quickly identified your Hornworm as a Cypress Sphinx Caterpillar,
Isoparce cupressi, thanks to some excellent images on the Sphingidae of the Americas site where it states:  “the rare Cypress Sphinx (Wing span: 2 3/8 – 2 9/16 inches (6 – 6.5 cm)), flies in Cypress swamps in Georgia (specimen type locality), and from Maryland to Texas. It has been reported in Mexico.  This species is threatened due to destruction of habitat.”  We are copying Bill Oehlke who runs that site and we hope you will also grant him permission to post your image.

Letter 13 – Sphinx Moth no longer flying around porch light


Subject: Big Moth?
Location: Visalia, Ca
May 21, 2017 12:07 am
This was flying around under my porch.. It is huge! What is it?
Signature: Thank you, Cynthia

Sphinx Moth Carnage

Dear Cynthia,
This Sphinx Moth, possibly a Carolina Sphinx, is no longer flying and it appears to be covered in an oily substance, perhaps an insecticide, and it appears quite dead, so we are tagging this submission as Unnecessary Carnage.  Porch lights frequently attract insects, and if this troubles you, just turn out the light.

It’s just water. . I wet it so it would be still for a picture with my cell phone.  No harm done.  Flew off 1/2 hour later. Thank you for letting me know what it is.  Wonder how it got to Ca.. Long Way from home. Attached is a pic of it in the house drying off before I let it back out in the night.. No worries, I’m not a murderer…as you see he is almost dry here…

Carolina Sphinx

Thanks for letting us know Cynthia.  We have removed the Unnecessary Carnage tag.  Dried out, we can see this is a Carolina Sphinx.  According to BugGuide, it is found in California.  The Caterpillars, known as Tobacco Hornworms, will feed on the leaves of tomato plants, though Jimsonweed is likely the native food plant.

Letter 14 – What’s That Sphinx Moth from Oceanside?


Subject:  Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Oceanside, Ca.
Date: 09/03/2021
Time: 03:24 PM EDT
Subject:  Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Oceanside, Ca.
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello. My wife discovered this winged insect (moth) camouflaged on our gate. Have never seen one like this before. Can you identify please? Thanks much!
How you want your letter signed:  Flummoxed in Oceanside.

Sphinx Moth

Dear Flummoxed in Oceanside,
You are correct that this is a Moth, a Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae.  Your individual is tattered and possibly faded due to age or a tough life.  We were not able to pinpoint an exact species of the individuals pictured on
iNaturalist, but we will give it more scrutiny later in the day.  Meanwhile perhaps one of our readers will recognize the species.


  • 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.

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  • 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.

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11 thoughts on “Exploring the Diet of Sphinx Moths: A Quick Insight”

  1. Interesting that this was brought up:

    5 days after [readers, see date posted by “Geir”], also on a ship, in the Norwegian Star Cruise Ship, in Columbia, a five spotted or similiar hawkmoth was found on the stern, on the swim deck. Myself and some others noted “that big moth
    ! ]10/18/2010].

  2. Hi Daniel, Geir and Steve
    I have frequently seen this moth here in Mozambique at Inhaca Island. Finally I took a photograph June 20th, 2013 at night, here at University Eduardo Mondlane building. It is really a beauty. Please see the image.

  3. Hi Daniel, Geir and Steve
    I have frequently seen this moth here in Mozambique at Inhaca Island. Finally I took a photograph June 20th, 2013 at night, here at University Eduardo Mondlane building. It is really a beauty. Please see the image.

  4. The larvae I have seen in yard are different looking from those in pictures. It is definitely a horned Sphinx of some type but I don’t know what it feeds on. We have two miniature citrus trees in back yard. Can I send a picture to someone

  5. Hi.
    This apple sphinx has been on my deck for days now. Tried to move him, he doesn’t want to go. Is he dying, molting, birthing? I don’t know the process. Any guesses? T.y.

  6. Hi.
    This apple sphinx has been on my deck for days now. Tried to move him, he doesn’t want to go. Is he dying, molting, birthing? I don’t know the process. Any guesses? T.y.


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