White Lined Sphinx Moth: Essential Facts and Tips

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The white-lined sphinx moth is a fascinating and beautiful creature that has captured the attention of many nature enthusiasts. These large, stout-bodied moths are adorned with furry brown bodies crossed by six white stripes, making them easily recognizable. With a wingspan of 2½ to 3½ inches, they are a sight to behold in flight. Their dark olive-brown forewings exhibit a broad tan band from the base to the tip, crossed by an array of striking patterns source.

As a member of the sphinx or hawk moth family (Sphingidae), these moths have large and plump bodies compared to their wingspan. This unique feature requires them to have fast-beating wings, enabling them to fly quickly or hover in place, similar to hummingbirds source. By getting to know more about the white-lined sphinx moth, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for this captivating species and the diverse world of moths.

Identifying the White Lined Sphinx Moth

Appearance and Size

The white-lined sphinx moth, also known as Hyles lineata, is a common sphingid moth found throughout North America. You may notice its distinctive size, with a wingspan ranging from 2 to 3 inches. Its body is long and heavy compared to other moths.

One remarkable feature of this moth is its long, pointed abdomen which allows it to hover near flowers and feed on nectar using its long proboscis. When not in use, the tongue rolls up. In terms of size, its forewings are long, and pointed, although some moth species have angled or irregular margins.

Color Patterns

The white-lined sphinx moth is characterized by its unique color patterns. Its head and body are mostly black, giving it a striking appearance. The wings are adorned with white lines, hence its name. The most notable feature in terms of color is on the hindwings, which showcase vivid and eye-catching coral coloring.

Let’s summarize the main features of the white-lined sphinx moth:

  • 2-3 inch wingspan
  • Long, pointed abdomen
  • Long, pointed forewings
  • Colorful coral hindwings with white lines
  • Mostly black head and body

By recognizing these characteristics, you can easily identify the white-lined sphinx moth and appreciate its fascinating appearance.

Life Cycle of the Sphinx Moth

Egg Stage

The life cycle of the White-lined Sphinx Moth starts with the tiny eggs laid by the adult female moth. These eggs are delicate and usually laid on the leaves of host plants. After a short period, the eggs will hatch into larvae.

Larval Stage

Once the eggs hatch, the larvae, or caterpillars, emerge. These caterpillars have a voracious appetite and feed on a variety of host plants. They are known for their interesting color variations and patterns. As they grow, they will molt several times, shedding their skin to accommodate their increasing size. Here are some characteristics of White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars:

  • Can be green, yellow, or black with distinct lines and markings
  • Have a horn-like structure on their rear end
  • Feed primarily during the night

Pupal Stage

After reaching a certain size, the caterpillar will enter the pupal stage. This entails finding a suitable spot in the soil, burrowing down, and forming a protective case around itself. The pupa will then overwinter in the soil, undergoing a transformation into an adult moth. During warm conditions, the pupae exhibit an interesting behavior – they move when touched.

Adult Stage

Once the transformation is complete, the adult moth emerges from the soil. These moths are large and have a wingspan of 2½ to 3½ inches. They are characterized by:

  • A furry brown body with six white stripes
  • Dark olive brown-colored forewings with a broad tan band
  • Fast-beating wings, capable of hovering like a hummingbird

The adult moths do not live long, so their primary purpose is to mate and lay eggs, starting the life cycle anew.

Habitat and Geographic Range

White-lined sphinx moths have a wide geographic range, covering much of North America. They can be found from Central America north through Mexico, the United States, and even into southern Canada.

These moths prefer various habitats, from deserts to parks. In particular, they thrive in areas with diverse plant life. You may come across them in your garden or local park, where they feed on nectar from various flowering plants.

White-lined sphinx moths are adaptable creatures. While they may have a preferred habitat, they can survive and thrive in many different environments. So, regardless of where you live in North America, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter these fascinating moths at some point. Just remember to appreciate their beauty and the important role they play in pollinating plants.

Feeding Habits

Larval Food Sources

The larvae of the White-lined Sphinx Moth have a diverse range of preferred plants to feed on. As a caterpillar, they commonly feed on grape and tomato plants, but will also consume evening primrose and purslane. Their host plants can vary depending on their habitat and geographical location.

When feeding on these plants, the larvae can cause significant damage, especially to younger plants. It’s essential to monitor your garden for any signs of caterpillar activity if you’re growing any of their preferred plants.

Adult Food Sources

As an adult, the White-lined Sphinx Moth shifts its focus to sourcing nectar from various flowers. They are particularly drawn to large, tube-shaped flowers as they are nocturnal visitors, and such flowers typically bloom at night. Some examples of these flowers include evening primrose and trumpet vine.

Here are some features of adult White-lined Sphinx Moths when feeding on nectar:

  • They have a long proboscis, enabling them to reach deep into flowers for nectar.
  • Their hovering and feeding habits resemble those of hummingbirds, earning them the nickname “Hummingbird Moths.”
  • They tend to seek out flowers with the most nectar production, so they can be highly attracted to well-maintained gardens.

In conclusion, the White-lined Sphinx Moth’s feeding habits change throughout its lifecycle. From feasting on leaves as a caterpillar to seeking out blossoming flowers for nectar as an adult, this moth species relies on a variety of plant sources to survive.

Behavior and Movement

Flight Patterns

The white-lined sphinx moth has a fascinating flight pattern. Its long and intricate flight can appear almost like a hummingbird. These moths are known for their stout-bodied appearance and long wingspan which can range from 2½ to 3½ inches. Their unique flight pattern allows them to:

  • Hover in place
  • Move quickly from flower to flower

Diurnal Vs Nocturnal Behavior

White-lined sphinx moths exhibit a mixture of diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Although they are primarily active at dusk, they can sometimes be spotted during the day as well. This dual behavior offers them the chance to feed from various types of flowers. Here’s a comparison of their activity:

Diurnal (Daytime) Nocturnal (Nighttime)
Less common activity More common activity
Feeds on daytime blooms Feeds on nocturnal blooms

Remember that white-lined sphinx moths have the world’s longest tongue among moths and butterflies, which helps them extract nectar from flowers that are inaccessible to other pollinators. This ability aids in their survival and offers them a unique place in the ecosystem. So next time you see this beautiful creature, take a moment to appreciate its incredible behavior and movement patterns.

Role in the Ecosystem

Pollination Role

White-lined sphinx moths (Hyles lineata) are active during the night. They have long tongues, which make them perfect for reaching the nectar in deep, tubular flowers that bees can’t access. In the process, they help with pollination of these plants. You might even mistake these moths for hummingbirds due to their hovering behavior, earning them the name “hummingbird moths.”

Some examples of plants benefiting from the sphinx moth’s pollination services include:

  • Evening primrose
  • Trumpet vine
  • Columbine

Predation and Defensive Mechanisms

White-lined sphinx moths play an important part in the food chain for both their larval and adult stages. Their larvae, or caterpillars, serve as food for various predators, such as birds and small mammals.

As adults, their mottled brown coloration helps them blend in with their environment, allowing them to avoid detection from potential predators. However, there are certain bird species and insects that still rely on these moths as a food source. To protect themselves, the sphinx moth larvae take on a defensive posture when threatened, raising the front of their body and tucking their head under to resemble the ancient Sphinx.

Interaction with Humans

The White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata), as a large moth with a wingspan of 2½ to 3½ inches, frequently catches the attention of humans. Despite their size, these moths are not a pest to gardens. In fact, you might consider them beneficial as they act as pollinators for night-blooming flowers.

White-lined Sphinx Moths are known to be rare in some areas, making them an intriguing sight for those who spot them. They are native to the Americas and have historical significance with some Native American tribes.

In your garden, you may witness these moths hovering around flowers, resembling hummingbirds as they sip nectar. This unique behavior helps the pollination process of various plants that attract them.

So, if you encounter a White-lined Sphinx Moth in your garden, appreciate its presence as a friendly pollinator providing a vital service to your plants.

Comparisons and Differences

Comparison with Hummingbird Moth

The White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) and the Hummingbird Moth are both members of the Sphinx Moth family (Sphingidae) and share some similarities. Here are a few characteristics they have in common:

  • Large, plump bodies
  • Quick, hovering flight patterns, similar to hummingbirds

However, there are key differences between the two species:

  1. Appearance: The White-lined Sphinx Moth has a furry brown body with six white stripes and a wingspan of 2½ to 3½ inches. Its forewings are dark olive brown with a broad tan band, while the hindwings have a black background and a broad pink median band 1. On the other hand, Hummingbird Moths usually have a mottled brown appearance.

  2. Feeding habits: Both species feed on nectar; however, Sphinx Moths have the longest tongue among moths and butterflies. They can reach nectar from narrow, tubular flowers that bees cannot 2.

Contrast with Tomato Hornworm

The Tomato Hornworm is another member of the Sphinx Moth family but has a few differences from the White-lined Sphinx Moth:

  • Size: Tomato Hornworms are the larvae of a Sphinx Moth species, and are much smaller than the adult White-lined Sphinx Moths.

  • Coloration: Tomato Hornworms are a bright green caterpillar with white V-shaped markings and a dark horn on their rear end 3.

  • Diet: Instead of feeding on nectar like the White-lined Sphinx Moth, Tomato Hornworms are known pests that consume the leaves, stems, and fruits of tomato plants.

By understanding the differences between these species, you can better distinguish between the common White-lined Sphinx Moth, the fascinating Hummingbird Moth, and the notorious Tomato Hornworm.

Footnotes

  1. Wisconsin Horticulture – White-lined Sphinx Moth

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation – Mysteries of the Sphinx Moths

  3. The University of Florida – Tomato Hornworm

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 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Huge Moth Southern California
Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 3:57 PM
I have only seen four of these guys my whole life, in So Cal… I always wondered what the genus is… they are HUGE!!!!
Katt
West Hills, Ca

White Lined Sphinx
White Lined Sphinx

Hi Katt,
The White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata, is one of the most common Sphinx Moths in the U.S., being found in all lower 48 states.  Periodically, in the desert regions of the Southwest, there are tremendous population explosions of both the caterpillars, which are edible, and the adult moths.  Just last week, we had 8 moths on our screen door because we often leave the light on in Los Angeles.

Letter 2 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Do you know what this is?
All the best,
Lola Abraham

Hi Lola,
This is a Sphinx Moth, probably a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 3 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Lucky shot of white lined sphinx
I recently got this digital image of the sphinx in our flower garden, which I think is a really good picture. Your site seems like the right place to share it with other people who appreciate this sore of thing. The light was just right, enough to use the viewfinder, but low enough so the high speed flash could stop the movement. Notice the clear detail of the eye, it is more like a bird eye than a bug eye. I’m guessing that this gives the moth the precision view that permits almost perfectly stationary hovering, equal to what a hummingbird can do. We have many hummingbirds here near Huntington, Indiana, and so are quite familiar with them. This creature must be relatively rare, since we very seldom see them. Hope the file is not too large, maybe I should have cropped it, but the whole flower image might be good enough to make a decorative print, so I sent it all. I have another image from a different angle if you would like to have it.
Allan Nostwick
Huntington, Indiana

Hi Allan,
Thank you for the excellent image. The detail is wonderful. The sphinx’s eyes are actually multifaceted compound eyes.

Letter 4 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Recognize this one?
Hello Bugman,
I found this chubby sphinx moth on my window in Minnesota. Can you identify the species?
Thanks for the great site!
Paul

Hi There Paul,
This is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 5 – White-Lined Sphinx

 

Hyles lineata
I saw the photo that accompanied Swarms of Striped Morning Sphinxes in Baja sent in to you by "A" on April 17, and thought you might enjoy these images made along Rock Creek, Mono County, CA, June 26, 2005. The flower is the rare Lillium kellyanum. Cheers,
Bill Bouton
San Luis Obispo, CA USA

Hi Bill,
We don’t believe we have ever received finer images capturing the flight of a White Lined Sphinx, or any other Sphinx for that matter, than yours.

Letter 6 – White Lined Sphinx

 

striped morning sphinx wings in flight
Hi – I love your site. This isn’t the greatest pic of a striped morning sphinx, but it sure shows the incredible dexterity of the sphinx’s wing system in flight. They can also adjust independently the far tips of the wings-bending them down to trim. Taken Tucson AZ 6:30 pm Mar 8 with flash.
Kevin Pratt

Hi Kevin,
The Striped Morning Sphinx is also known as the White Lined Sphinx. We love your photo.

Letter 7 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Sphnix Moth
I just wanted to share this picture I took recently of a Sphnix Moth. I heard it after sunset. It was so dark that I couldn’t even see it, but I was able to focus on the loud distinctive beating of it’s wings
Dennis

Hi Dennis,
You have produced a wonderful action photo of a White Lined Sphinx.

Letter 8 – White-Lined Sphinx

 

BIG AS A HUMMING BIRD.
I TOOK THIS PICTURE OUTSIDE OF CIRCUS CIRCUS HOTEL IN LAS VEGAS,NV WHILE SITTIN ON A BENCH WAITN FOR MY CAR I THOUGHT IT WAS A HUMMING BIRD BUT IT WAS NIGHT TIME I LATER NOTICED THAT IT WAS A (BUG)INSECT…WHAT IS IT?
HENRY ANDERSON.JR

Hi Henry,
Your moth is a White-Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata, and it is often confused for a hummingbird. The Caterpillars can be quite numerous at times, are edible, and are a frequent identification request for our site.

Letter 9 – White Lined Sphinx: Frozen in Flight

 

Picture of a bug in flight
At first I thought it was a hummer, but then realized it is smaller and flys a lot faster…. Then, when I downloaded the picture and zoomed the bug- here is what I got… I think it is looking awesome… What is this? Thanks!
Monika Agic

Hi Monika,
This is definitely the best image of a Sphinx Moth captured in flight that we have ever received. It is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 10 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Question: Help! What is this bug?!
Dear Bugman,
Please help me identify this bug. I have searched all the pages on the internet for moths and cannot locate a picture that looks like this one. Thank you so much!
Julie

Hi Julie,
On our website, the Sphinx Moths, a large family, get their own pages separate from general moths. This is a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata. It is one of the most common U.S. Sphinx Moths, and in desert areas the species go through cyclical population explosions.

Letter 11 – Southern Dogface and Mystery Egg (maybe White Lined Sphinx)

 

dogface & egg???
While looking through some of my photos I noticed what seems to be an egg beside this butterfly. I think this is a southern dogface? There are several butterflies that look close in resemblance. Could you tell me if this is in fact a dogface and is that possibly one of it’s eggs? This pic was taken in October this year.
Scott from Austin Texas

Hi Scott,
According to BugGuide, “larvae [of the Dogface] feed on legumes” and to the best of our botanical knowledge, the plant in this wonderful photograph is not a legume. That would indicate that is was either an errantly placed Southern Dogface Egg, or more likely, the egg of some other insect. The plant appears to be a fuschia, though we are not certain. If the plant is a fuschia, the egg might be from a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Daniel,
Your guess is reasonable. It looks like a Sphingid egg and lineata would be a good choice.
Bill Oehlke

Letter 12 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Distinctions between Hyles lineata and Hyles livornica
Location:  Boone County Iowa
August 17, 2010 2:42 pm
What is used to split/differentiate the genus Hyles into the two species lineata and livornica? I caught one or the other yesterday evening and wanted to know how to positively id it.
Thanks
John Taylor Biology Teacher @ Woodward Academy

Stock Photo of Hyles species

Hi John,
This is a great question, and your photograph is stunning.
Hyles livornica, the Striped Hawkmoth and Hyles lineata, the Striped Morning Sphinx or White Lined Sphinx are very similar looking species that may take an experienced expert in the family Sphingidae to properly explain how to differentiate them from one another.  We can tell you that often a photograph is not sufficient to identify certain difficult species where actual inspection of the specimen is required for conclusive identification.  In the case of these two moths, the Striped Hawkmoth is an Old World species and the Striped Morning Sphinx or White Lined Sphinx is a New World species.  While it is possible that there have been transoceanic introductions, we can only speculate that the ranges of the two species are separated by large bodies of water.  We are not certain if any studies have been conducted on hybridization of these two species.  We would not be surprised if the two moths are subspecies of one another, but that is a personal opinion with no basis in scientific research.  Though we don’t generally like to cite Wikipedia, there is a distribution map of Hyles livornica available on Wikipedia. The Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website has a nice profile of Hyles livornica. For information on the White Lined Sphinx we recommend Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Damiel,
Thanks for your prompt reply. The photo isn’t mine, it is a stock photo I got from the net. I was just using it as an example. What I hear you saying is that the moth I captured is likely the Striped/White Lined lineata variety. Thanks also for the suggestions of sites to visit.
John Taylor

Hi again John,
Thanks for indicating that the photo is not your image.  We are recaptioning that image as
Hyles species since we do not have the necessary knowledge to differentiate the two species.  We may try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can assist.

Bill Oehlke responds
Hi Daniel,
I only know the two species are distinct. There are morphological characters to distinguish them, but I do not know what those characters/features are. I would only be able to differentiate between them based on location.
Bill Oehlke

Letter 13 – White Lined Sphinx

 

moth
Location:  southern wisconsin
August 29, 2010 9:27 pm
Aug 30th, moth on our deck in s wisconsin. what is it?
jw

White Lined Sphinx

Hi jw,
YOur moth is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata.  This is one of the most common Hawk Moths in the family Sphingidae, and it can be found in all forty eight lower states and much of Canada.  You may read more about the White Lined Sphinx on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Letter 14 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moth in Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis, MN
October 2, 2012 6:39 pm
Hi
This is probably a very common moth in these parts but I’ve just arrived from the UK so all sorts of things are new to me. Didn’t know American Robins were different to British ones for starters! Anyway, if you could identify this for me I’d be most greatful. Many thanks in advance.
Signature: Anita

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Anita,
The Whitelined Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, is one of the most common large moths in North America, and it is found in all 48 lower states as well as Canada.  It is nonetheless a lovely moth.  See the Sphingidae of the Americas website for additional information.

Letter 15 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Bug identification
Location: Newton, IA 50208
October 29, 2012 8:31 am
I live in Newton, Ia. This bug visits my flowerbed every fall. It moves like a hummingbird but has yellow and black stripes. I have tried to take a picture of it for three years. I got lucky this year. I look forward to seeing it each fall. Please let me know what it is at … .
Sincerely
Valerie Barney
Signature: Valerie Barney

Whitelined Hawkmoth

Dear Valerie,
This is a beautiful action photo of a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata.  They do resemble a hummingbird in flight.

Letter 16 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moth?
Location: Arcadia California
March 9, 2013 6:11 pm
Hi,
My name is Adrian and I found this moth outside of my front door. I was hoping you can offer more information about its species or meaning of its origin.
Thank you
Signature: What kind of moth

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Adrian,
Your moth is a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, and people often encounter the species the first time when it is discovered clinging to the wall near a light that has been left on all night long.  The Whitelined Sphinx is a wide ranging species that has been reported in all forty eight lower states.

Letter 17 – White Lined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California!!!

 

Subject: Moth
Location: Montebello, CA
April 2, 2013 6:40 pm
So I found this guy outside my friend’s house and had to catch him…however I can’t identify him. He is a bit bigger than a Half Dollar and well I need some help 🙂
Signature: George

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear George,
If our front porch is any indication, there are record numbers of Whitelined Sphinxes or Striped Morning Sphinxes,
Hyles lineata, flying in Southern California this year, which means there were probably numerous Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars last year, and if favorable conditions prevail, they will continue to multiply as long as there is a larval food source available.  We suspect that caterpillars feed on the fuschia we have growing in the shade garden outside our Mount Washington, Los Angeles offices, but caterpillars also feed on a wide variety of native desert foliage.  We were struck by one moth flying at dusk near our native plant garden and six individuals congregated at the porch light during the night.  One unfortunate individual was trampled when we failed to notice it on the welcome mat.

4 Sphinxes
4 Sphinxes

Update:  April 6, 2013
Last night, there was a knocking at the front door.  A mother raccoon and two cubs were tring to catch the Whitlined Sphinxes that were resting on the screen door.
  Then this morning we opened the door to this surprise:  4 Sphinxes were resting near the top of the door, well out of the reach of the raccoon.  Going outside revealed two more.  We can only wonder how many were eaten.

4 Sphinxes
4 Sphinxes

Letter 18 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Is this some sort of Sphynx moth?
Location: Crested Butte, CO
May 24, 2013 11:40 pm
Found this guy on an early sunrise solo photography walk in the summer of July, 2008. He was on the ground in the dirt, probably on his way out and I decided to pick him up and put him on some plant life nearby so he wouldn’t get squashed. I found the colors so edgy and interesting. Hope these can help your collections!
Signature: Breanna

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Breanna,
You are correct.  This is a Whitelined Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, and it is currently featured on our homepage banner since adults are currently flying in Southern California.  This is a wide ranging species that is reported from all 48 lower states in North America.  Your submission is being postdated to go live on our site during our absence in early June so that there are uninterrupted daily updates.

Letter 19 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: White-Lined Sphinx at Night
Location: Naperville, IL
September 14, 2013 7:17 pm
Hi Daniel~
I’ve never seen one of these beautiful moths until a few evenings ago. Since then, I’ve seen them a number of times, feeding from buddleia, zinnias, and hibiscus trees, usually at dusk. And I can’t tell you how many friends saw them and mentioned them to me as well, wondering what they were. I had to use a flash because there was just no way to capture its colorful wings without it.
All the best to you!
Signature: Dori Eldridge

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Dori,
Your stunning photo has frozen the rapidly beating wings of this lovely Whitelined Sphinx.  Upon watching them feed, it is easy to understand why they are often confused for hummingbirds.  Because the caterpillars are able to feed on a large variety of plants, the Whitelined Sphinx is found in all 48 lower states as well as Canada, and it might be the most common Sphinx Moth in North America.  Populations of Whitelined Sphinxes tend to rise and fall depending upon the year, and when conditions are ideal in the southwest, there are huge explosions in the populations of both the caterpillars and the adults.  Zinnias are wonderful flowers to plant when you want to attract butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Thank you, Daniel! I agree with your statement about zinnias. I have seen more new species of pollinators this year all over my back yard where I planted lots of zinnias this past spring. And hummingbirds are also fans of them. Have a lovely weekend!

Letter 20 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: moth?
Location: los Angeles, ca
February 12, 2014 12:01 pm
Hi, I was wondering if you could identify this bug. It’s not like any other moth I’ve seen and wonder if it’s a moth at all?
Signature: crazy moth

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear crazy moth,
The Whitelined Sphinx is a common moth in the Los Angeles area.  It is a species that thrives in desert areas of the Southwest and when conditions are right, Whitelined Sphinxes can be attracted in great numbers to lights.

 

Letter 21 – Whitelined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California

 

Subject: Hyles population boom?
February 23, 2014 9:19 pm
is anyone else seeing a LOT of Hyles lineata right now?  I live in Riverside and am getting 5/day in house.  luckily, I love them!  I do have a bunch of epilobium which they’re probably feeding on.
Signature: Beth

Whitelined Sphinx from our archives
Whitelined Sphinx from our archives

Hi Beth,
Our offices are in Mount Washington, a Los Angeles neighborhood to the northeast, and we have had visits several times this week by Whitelined Sphinxes.  Though we are not seeing the numbers you are seeing, we can attest to them flying right now.  Last April, we had a period of time in early April where we would see as many as eight to ten Whitelined Sphinxes each night at the front door where they were attracted by the porch light.

WTB? Offices April 2013
WTB? Offices April 2013

hi Daniel, I teach at Oxy but am seldom there at night to see such things.  it seems early in the season  for the numbers I’m seeing…..
Beth

We have had a warmer and drier winter which will affect eclosion times.

Letter 22 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: weird bug mammal creature
Location: lakeforest ca
March 26, 2014 11:12 pm
Found this while I was eating at jack in the box im so curious on what it is looks like a grasshopper and a mouse mated. Thanks
Signature: alex adams

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Alex,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx, a species of moth, and they are currently flying in Southern California.  We see one or more at our screen door each morning.  They are attracted to the porch light.

Letter 23 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: What. Is. This.
Location: San Diego
March 26, 2014 8:19 am
Help, there is a large moth on my ceiling. I called maintenance to save me but they just laughed. What is it?!!
Signature: Mallary

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Mallary,
This Whitelined Sphinx is perfectly harmless.  Whitelined Sphinxes are currently flying in Southern California.

Letter 24 – Whitelined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California

 

Subject: Huge moths
Location: Southern California Santa Monica area near ocean but no lakes or standing water
April 21, 2017 8:23 pm
I get these every now and then they can get very large. They usually land in or near my one light and expire there. Any idea what they are?
Signature: Paul

Whitelined Sphinx

Actually, I ended up digging it up myself. They are apparently some very common species called Sphynx White Stripe Moth or something to that effect. The record I saw says they get big and they are not kidding. You could easily mistake the larger ones for a small bird. Says also they are continent wide in North America but I’ve only ever seen them in Santa Monica. No need to spend your time looking it up but nice service you have.
Paul

Whitelined Sphinxes

Dear Paul,
We are happy to learn you were able to self-identify your Whitelined Sphinx Moths.  They are currently flying in Southern California.  We had four at our porch light in nearby Mount Washington in Los Angeles early this morning, and one day earlier in the week there were seven.  We suspect the wet winter allowed more plant growth to feed the caterpillars, hence more moths have developed and are currently in flight.

Letter 25 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: White Lined Sphinx Moth?
Location: California
April 21, 2017 11:47 pm
I believe this is a White Lined sphinx, based on pictures I saw, but if there is a species that looks similar to the White Lined, I’d be curious to know what this really is. I also posted this a while back: 2013/10/21/carolina-sphinx-11/ We used to get these Carolina sphinx moths for a little while before they seemed to stop coming around, and now we are seeing a few of these White Lined sphinx moths. (most likely what this is) Could it be possible that these White Lined sphinx ran the Carolina sphinx out of town?
Signature: Brittany

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Brittany,
You are correct that this is a Whitelined Sphinx.  We doubt that it has displaced the Carolina Sphinx as the caterpillars have different food sources.  Caterpillars of the Carolina Sphinx, known as Tobacco Hornworms, feed on the leaves of tomato and related plants.  If no one is growing tomato plants near you, you will not have the adult moths nearby.

Letter 26 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moths
Location: Cedarpines park California
April 21, 2017 11:22 pm
It was nighttime it was on my house very beautiful
Signature: Tina McClellan

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Tina,
Your report is the third posting we have created today of a Whitelined Sphinx sighting.

Letter 27 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Is this a Shpinx Fasciata?
Location: Joshua Tree Park, CA. USA. Skull Rock, Park BLVD
June 10, 2017 9:08 am
I made this picture April 26, 2017 in Joshua Tree Park, California.
I searched the internet but I’m not shure this is a Sphinx Fasciata.
R. Janssen
The Netherlands
Signature: Richard

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Richard,
The Whitelined Sphinx is a common species in the desert, but it is not limited to a desert habitat.  This moth is found throughout North America.

Letter 28 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Temecula, CA
Date: 02/08/2018
Time: 09:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found in the kitchen this am! Please ID. Thank you.
How you want your letter signed:  Evelyn Wolfer

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Evelyn,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, probably the most common large Southern California moth.  We have found as many as eight attracted to our porch light on one night.  Earlier this week, we had our first Whitelined Sphinx of the year on the screen door early in the morning.

Wow – thank you for such a fast reply. You are the best!

Letter 29 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  White-lined Sphinx Moth, I Believe
Geographic location of the bug:  Coryell County, Texas
Date: 03/20/2018
Time: 01:09 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello again! Hope you are both well!
This beautiful moth was literally at my feet when I went to check on the creeping phlox, and hahahahaha the proboscis! A built-in bendy-straw, amazing. I don’t know if it was pink from nectar or a reflection from the pink phlox, and perhaps the yellow was from carrying some pollen as well, or perhaps it was its natural color (?).
The phlox is a huge hit with the pollinators, and I’m glad we planted so much of it. It’s an early bloomer here in  centralTexas. We saw pipevine swallowtails and black swallowtails nectaring at the phlox also this month. Lovely!
A reference I found: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Hyles-lineata
Thank you and best wishes!
How you want your letter signed:  Ellen

Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Ellen,
It is so nice to hear from you after so much time.  Your images of a Whitelined Sphinx, AKA Striped Morning Sphinx, are gorgeous.  The underwings of the Whitelined Sphinx are actually pink, and not the result of any reflections.  We have fond memories of the summer phlox in Mom’s garden in Ohio back in the 1960s, and all the butterflies and diurnal moths they attracted.

Whitelined Sphinx

Thank you so much for the quick response and kind words! My poorly-written wondering was about the very-long proboscis. In several photos the proboscis actually looked pink at the flower end. I was wondering if the nectar itself is pink and showing through the membrane of the proboscis. The proboscis also seems to carry pollen in some of my photos. I apologize for the confusion, which I’ll blame either on my over-use of the pronoun “it”, the fact that I tend to ramble on too much,  or perhaps the late hour, or my amusement at the beautiful but very large and pink (!) moth.  The Sphinx makes me smile! Hopefully it will return again today.
Very best wishes to you both!
Ellen

Whitelined Sphinx

Thanks for the clarification Ellen, but alas, we don’t know the answer to your questions.  We have now included a close-up crop of your image to show the proboscis.  Part of the effect is due to the lighting.  The Whitelined Sphinx often flies at dawn and dusk, and since, according to our friend lepidopterist Julian Donahue, Sphinx Moths are relatively long lived, you might see this individual over the next few weeks, and you might even see more.  Periodically, in arid environments, the Whitelined Sphinx populations explode.  We have found as many as eight or more individuals at our screen door some mornings.

What causes the color on the proboscis???

Eight moths at once, amazing! Your memories of phlox in the garden from when you were a child, wonderful. It’s a new plant for me, in the ground just two years, and it’s really taken off this year. I saw five different species of butterflies and moths visiting the phlox yesterday, including two individuals of the White-lined Sphinx moths, just beautiful. As always, I greatly appreciate our help and information. Thank you so very much. Best wishes!

Ellen

Letter 30 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth ID
Geographic location of the bug:  Long Beach, CA
Date: 04/10/2018
Time: 10:16 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello –
This moth has been visiting my front porch for the last 12 hours or so.  I haven’t been able to get a photo with wings open yet, but from what i can see the markings looks like a whitelined sphinx to me.  What do you think?
Thanks a lot for the help!
How you want your letter signed:  Laurie

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Laurie,
This Whitelined Sphinx Moth or Striped Morning Sphinx is one of the most common, large, Southern California Moths and indications are that they are flying in Southern California now.  Just last evening Daniel watched a female ovipositing on the leaves of the sprouting primroses in the garden, and this morning there is one resting on the screen door.  This species tends to fly at dawn and dusk, and it is not unusual for an individual to rest for a day or more before taking flight again.

Letter 31 – Whitelined Sphinxes flying in the Southwest

 

Subject:  Flying large bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Phoenix az
Date: 04/02/2019
Time: 10:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this?
How you want your letter signed:  Honi

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Honi,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx Moth, and they are currently flying in Southern California since there are three resting on the front door of the WTB? offices.  Significant rainfall in the southwest this winter resulted in “super blooms” in many desert areas, and the increase in vegetation also resulted in more food for caterpillars and moths.  We have yet to receive any reports of large numbers of Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars this year, though we suspect we will receive such reports before long.  Some years the Whitelined Sphinx Moths are quite plentiful, and we suspect this will be one of those years.

Letter 32 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  moth species
Geographic location of the bug:  Southwest Chicago Suburbs
Date: 10/23/2021
Time: 05:59 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi!
What kind of moth is this? Its eyes are fascinating.
How you want your letter signed:  Cathy Z.

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Cathy,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx Moth, one of the widest ranging species in its family.  It is found throughout the continental United States.  Sphinx Moths have excellent eyesight.  They are often mistaken for hummingbirds when they take nectar from blossoms while hovering in place.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.

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 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Huge Moth Southern California
Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 3:57 PM
I have only seen four of these guys my whole life, in So Cal… I always wondered what the genus is… they are HUGE!!!!
Katt
West Hills, Ca

White Lined Sphinx
White Lined Sphinx

Hi Katt,
The White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata, is one of the most common Sphinx Moths in the U.S., being found in all lower 48 states.  Periodically, in the desert regions of the Southwest, there are tremendous population explosions of both the caterpillars, which are edible, and the adult moths.  Just last week, we had 8 moths on our screen door because we often leave the light on in Los Angeles.

Letter 2 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Do you know what this is?
All the best,
Lola Abraham

Hi Lola,
This is a Sphinx Moth, probably a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 3 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Lucky shot of white lined sphinx
I recently got this digital image of the sphinx in our flower garden, which I think is a really good picture. Your site seems like the right place to share it with other people who appreciate this sore of thing. The light was just right, enough to use the viewfinder, but low enough so the high speed flash could stop the movement. Notice the clear detail of the eye, it is more like a bird eye than a bug eye. I’m guessing that this gives the moth the precision view that permits almost perfectly stationary hovering, equal to what a hummingbird can do. We have many hummingbirds here near Huntington, Indiana, and so are quite familiar with them. This creature must be relatively rare, since we very seldom see them. Hope the file is not too large, maybe I should have cropped it, but the whole flower image might be good enough to make a decorative print, so I sent it all. I have another image from a different angle if you would like to have it.
Allan Nostwick
Huntington, Indiana

Hi Allan,
Thank you for the excellent image. The detail is wonderful. The sphinx’s eyes are actually multifaceted compound eyes.

Letter 4 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Recognize this one?
Hello Bugman,
I found this chubby sphinx moth on my window in Minnesota. Can you identify the species?
Thanks for the great site!
Paul

Hi There Paul,
This is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 5 – White-Lined Sphinx

 

Hyles lineata
I saw the photo that accompanied Swarms of Striped Morning Sphinxes in Baja sent in to you by "A" on April 17, and thought you might enjoy these images made along Rock Creek, Mono County, CA, June 26, 2005. The flower is the rare Lillium kellyanum. Cheers,
Bill Bouton
San Luis Obispo, CA USA

Hi Bill,
We don’t believe we have ever received finer images capturing the flight of a White Lined Sphinx, or any other Sphinx for that matter, than yours.

Letter 6 – White Lined Sphinx

 

striped morning sphinx wings in flight
Hi – I love your site. This isn’t the greatest pic of a striped morning sphinx, but it sure shows the incredible dexterity of the sphinx’s wing system in flight. They can also adjust independently the far tips of the wings-bending them down to trim. Taken Tucson AZ 6:30 pm Mar 8 with flash.
Kevin Pratt

Hi Kevin,
The Striped Morning Sphinx is also known as the White Lined Sphinx. We love your photo.

Letter 7 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Sphnix Moth
I just wanted to share this picture I took recently of a Sphnix Moth. I heard it after sunset. It was so dark that I couldn’t even see it, but I was able to focus on the loud distinctive beating of it’s wings
Dennis

Hi Dennis,
You have produced a wonderful action photo of a White Lined Sphinx.

Letter 8 – White-Lined Sphinx

 

BIG AS A HUMMING BIRD.
I TOOK THIS PICTURE OUTSIDE OF CIRCUS CIRCUS HOTEL IN LAS VEGAS,NV WHILE SITTIN ON A BENCH WAITN FOR MY CAR I THOUGHT IT WAS A HUMMING BIRD BUT IT WAS NIGHT TIME I LATER NOTICED THAT IT WAS A (BUG)INSECT…WHAT IS IT?
HENRY ANDERSON.JR

Hi Henry,
Your moth is a White-Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata, and it is often confused for a hummingbird. The Caterpillars can be quite numerous at times, are edible, and are a frequent identification request for our site.

Letter 9 – White Lined Sphinx: Frozen in Flight

 

Picture of a bug in flight
At first I thought it was a hummer, but then realized it is smaller and flys a lot faster…. Then, when I downloaded the picture and zoomed the bug- here is what I got… I think it is looking awesome… What is this? Thanks!
Monika Agic

Hi Monika,
This is definitely the best image of a Sphinx Moth captured in flight that we have ever received. It is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Letter 10 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Question: Help! What is this bug?!
Dear Bugman,
Please help me identify this bug. I have searched all the pages on the internet for moths and cannot locate a picture that looks like this one. Thank you so much!
Julie

Hi Julie,
On our website, the Sphinx Moths, a large family, get their own pages separate from general moths. This is a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata. It is one of the most common U.S. Sphinx Moths, and in desert areas the species go through cyclical population explosions.

Letter 11 – Southern Dogface and Mystery Egg (maybe White Lined Sphinx)

 

dogface & egg???
While looking through some of my photos I noticed what seems to be an egg beside this butterfly. I think this is a southern dogface? There are several butterflies that look close in resemblance. Could you tell me if this is in fact a dogface and is that possibly one of it’s eggs? This pic was taken in October this year.
Scott from Austin Texas

Hi Scott,
According to BugGuide, “larvae [of the Dogface] feed on legumes” and to the best of our botanical knowledge, the plant in this wonderful photograph is not a legume. That would indicate that is was either an errantly placed Southern Dogface Egg, or more likely, the egg of some other insect. The plant appears to be a fuschia, though we are not certain. If the plant is a fuschia, the egg might be from a White Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata.

Daniel,
Your guess is reasonable. It looks like a Sphingid egg and lineata would be a good choice.
Bill Oehlke

Letter 12 – White Lined Sphinx

 

Distinctions between Hyles lineata and Hyles livornica
Location:  Boone County Iowa
August 17, 2010 2:42 pm
What is used to split/differentiate the genus Hyles into the two species lineata and livornica? I caught one or the other yesterday evening and wanted to know how to positively id it.
Thanks
John Taylor Biology Teacher @ Woodward Academy

Stock Photo of Hyles species

Hi John,
This is a great question, and your photograph is stunning.
Hyles livornica, the Striped Hawkmoth and Hyles lineata, the Striped Morning Sphinx or White Lined Sphinx are very similar looking species that may take an experienced expert in the family Sphingidae to properly explain how to differentiate them from one another.  We can tell you that often a photograph is not sufficient to identify certain difficult species where actual inspection of the specimen is required for conclusive identification.  In the case of these two moths, the Striped Hawkmoth is an Old World species and the Striped Morning Sphinx or White Lined Sphinx is a New World species.  While it is possible that there have been transoceanic introductions, we can only speculate that the ranges of the two species are separated by large bodies of water.  We are not certain if any studies have been conducted on hybridization of these two species.  We would not be surprised if the two moths are subspecies of one another, but that is a personal opinion with no basis in scientific research.  Though we don’t generally like to cite Wikipedia, there is a distribution map of Hyles livornica available on Wikipedia. The Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website has a nice profile of Hyles livornica. For information on the White Lined Sphinx we recommend Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Damiel,
Thanks for your prompt reply. The photo isn’t mine, it is a stock photo I got from the net. I was just using it as an example. What I hear you saying is that the moth I captured is likely the Striped/White Lined lineata variety. Thanks also for the suggestions of sites to visit.
John Taylor

Hi again John,
Thanks for indicating that the photo is not your image.  We are recaptioning that image as
Hyles species since we do not have the necessary knowledge to differentiate the two species.  We may try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can assist.

Bill Oehlke responds
Hi Daniel,
I only know the two species are distinct. There are morphological characters to distinguish them, but I do not know what those characters/features are. I would only be able to differentiate between them based on location.
Bill Oehlke

Letter 13 – White Lined Sphinx

 

moth
Location:  southern wisconsin
August 29, 2010 9:27 pm
Aug 30th, moth on our deck in s wisconsin. what is it?
jw

White Lined Sphinx

Hi jw,
YOur moth is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata.  This is one of the most common Hawk Moths in the family Sphingidae, and it can be found in all forty eight lower states and much of Canada.  You may read more about the White Lined Sphinx on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Letter 14 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moth in Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis, MN
October 2, 2012 6:39 pm
Hi
This is probably a very common moth in these parts but I’ve just arrived from the UK so all sorts of things are new to me. Didn’t know American Robins were different to British ones for starters! Anyway, if you could identify this for me I’d be most greatful. Many thanks in advance.
Signature: Anita

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Anita,
The Whitelined Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, is one of the most common large moths in North America, and it is found in all 48 lower states as well as Canada.  It is nonetheless a lovely moth.  See the Sphingidae of the Americas website for additional information.

Letter 15 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Bug identification
Location: Newton, IA 50208
October 29, 2012 8:31 am
I live in Newton, Ia. This bug visits my flowerbed every fall. It moves like a hummingbird but has yellow and black stripes. I have tried to take a picture of it for three years. I got lucky this year. I look forward to seeing it each fall. Please let me know what it is at … .
Sincerely
Valerie Barney
Signature: Valerie Barney

Whitelined Hawkmoth

Dear Valerie,
This is a beautiful action photo of a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata.  They do resemble a hummingbird in flight.

Letter 16 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moth?
Location: Arcadia California
March 9, 2013 6:11 pm
Hi,
My name is Adrian and I found this moth outside of my front door. I was hoping you can offer more information about its species or meaning of its origin.
Thank you
Signature: What kind of moth

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Adrian,
Your moth is a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, and people often encounter the species the first time when it is discovered clinging to the wall near a light that has been left on all night long.  The Whitelined Sphinx is a wide ranging species that has been reported in all forty eight lower states.

Letter 17 – White Lined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California!!!

 

Subject: Moth
Location: Montebello, CA
April 2, 2013 6:40 pm
So I found this guy outside my friend’s house and had to catch him…however I can’t identify him. He is a bit bigger than a Half Dollar and well I need some help 🙂
Signature: George

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear George,
If our front porch is any indication, there are record numbers of Whitelined Sphinxes or Striped Morning Sphinxes,
Hyles lineata, flying in Southern California this year, which means there were probably numerous Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars last year, and if favorable conditions prevail, they will continue to multiply as long as there is a larval food source available.  We suspect that caterpillars feed on the fuschia we have growing in the shade garden outside our Mount Washington, Los Angeles offices, but caterpillars also feed on a wide variety of native desert foliage.  We were struck by one moth flying at dusk near our native plant garden and six individuals congregated at the porch light during the night.  One unfortunate individual was trampled when we failed to notice it on the welcome mat.

4 Sphinxes
4 Sphinxes

Update:  April 6, 2013
Last night, there was a knocking at the front door.  A mother raccoon and two cubs were tring to catch the Whitlined Sphinxes that were resting on the screen door.
  Then this morning we opened the door to this surprise:  4 Sphinxes were resting near the top of the door, well out of the reach of the raccoon.  Going outside revealed two more.  We can only wonder how many were eaten.

4 Sphinxes
4 Sphinxes

Letter 18 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Is this some sort of Sphynx moth?
Location: Crested Butte, CO
May 24, 2013 11:40 pm
Found this guy on an early sunrise solo photography walk in the summer of July, 2008. He was on the ground in the dirt, probably on his way out and I decided to pick him up and put him on some plant life nearby so he wouldn’t get squashed. I found the colors so edgy and interesting. Hope these can help your collections!
Signature: Breanna

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Breanna,
You are correct.  This is a Whitelined Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, and it is currently featured on our homepage banner since adults are currently flying in Southern California.  This is a wide ranging species that is reported from all 48 lower states in North America.  Your submission is being postdated to go live on our site during our absence in early June so that there are uninterrupted daily updates.

Letter 19 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: White-Lined Sphinx at Night
Location: Naperville, IL
September 14, 2013 7:17 pm
Hi Daniel~
I’ve never seen one of these beautiful moths until a few evenings ago. Since then, I’ve seen them a number of times, feeding from buddleia, zinnias, and hibiscus trees, usually at dusk. And I can’t tell you how many friends saw them and mentioned them to me as well, wondering what they were. I had to use a flash because there was just no way to capture its colorful wings without it.
All the best to you!
Signature: Dori Eldridge

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Dori,
Your stunning photo has frozen the rapidly beating wings of this lovely Whitelined Sphinx.  Upon watching them feed, it is easy to understand why they are often confused for hummingbirds.  Because the caterpillars are able to feed on a large variety of plants, the Whitelined Sphinx is found in all 48 lower states as well as Canada, and it might be the most common Sphinx Moth in North America.  Populations of Whitelined Sphinxes tend to rise and fall depending upon the year, and when conditions are ideal in the southwest, there are huge explosions in the populations of both the caterpillars and the adults.  Zinnias are wonderful flowers to plant when you want to attract butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Thank you, Daniel! I agree with your statement about zinnias. I have seen more new species of pollinators this year all over my back yard where I planted lots of zinnias this past spring. And hummingbirds are also fans of them. Have a lovely weekend!

Letter 20 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: moth?
Location: los Angeles, ca
February 12, 2014 12:01 pm
Hi, I was wondering if you could identify this bug. It’s not like any other moth I’ve seen and wonder if it’s a moth at all?
Signature: crazy moth

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Dear crazy moth,
The Whitelined Sphinx is a common moth in the Los Angeles area.  It is a species that thrives in desert areas of the Southwest and when conditions are right, Whitelined Sphinxes can be attracted in great numbers to lights.

 

Letter 21 – Whitelined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California

 

Subject: Hyles population boom?
February 23, 2014 9:19 pm
is anyone else seeing a LOT of Hyles lineata right now?  I live in Riverside and am getting 5/day in house.  luckily, I love them!  I do have a bunch of epilobium which they’re probably feeding on.
Signature: Beth

Whitelined Sphinx from our archives
Whitelined Sphinx from our archives

Hi Beth,
Our offices are in Mount Washington, a Los Angeles neighborhood to the northeast, and we have had visits several times this week by Whitelined Sphinxes.  Though we are not seeing the numbers you are seeing, we can attest to them flying right now.  Last April, we had a period of time in early April where we would see as many as eight to ten Whitelined Sphinxes each night at the front door where they were attracted by the porch light.

WTB? Offices April 2013
WTB? Offices April 2013

hi Daniel, I teach at Oxy but am seldom there at night to see such things.  it seems early in the season  for the numbers I’m seeing…..
Beth

We have had a warmer and drier winter which will affect eclosion times.

Letter 22 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: weird bug mammal creature
Location: lakeforest ca
March 26, 2014 11:12 pm
Found this while I was eating at jack in the box im so curious on what it is looks like a grasshopper and a mouse mated. Thanks
Signature: alex adams

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Alex,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx, a species of moth, and they are currently flying in Southern California.  We see one or more at our screen door each morning.  They are attracted to the porch light.

Letter 23 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: What. Is. This.
Location: San Diego
March 26, 2014 8:19 am
Help, there is a large moth on my ceiling. I called maintenance to save me but they just laughed. What is it?!!
Signature: Mallary

Whitelined Sphinx
Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Mallary,
This Whitelined Sphinx is perfectly harmless.  Whitelined Sphinxes are currently flying in Southern California.

Letter 24 – Whitelined Sphinxes Flying in Southern California

 

Subject: Huge moths
Location: Southern California Santa Monica area near ocean but no lakes or standing water
April 21, 2017 8:23 pm
I get these every now and then they can get very large. They usually land in or near my one light and expire there. Any idea what they are?
Signature: Paul

Whitelined Sphinx

Actually, I ended up digging it up myself. They are apparently some very common species called Sphynx White Stripe Moth or something to that effect. The record I saw says they get big and they are not kidding. You could easily mistake the larger ones for a small bird. Says also they are continent wide in North America but I’ve only ever seen them in Santa Monica. No need to spend your time looking it up but nice service you have.
Paul

Whitelined Sphinxes

Dear Paul,
We are happy to learn you were able to self-identify your Whitelined Sphinx Moths.  They are currently flying in Southern California.  We had four at our porch light in nearby Mount Washington in Los Angeles early this morning, and one day earlier in the week there were seven.  We suspect the wet winter allowed more plant growth to feed the caterpillars, hence more moths have developed and are currently in flight.

Letter 25 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: White Lined Sphinx Moth?
Location: California
April 21, 2017 11:47 pm
I believe this is a White Lined sphinx, based on pictures I saw, but if there is a species that looks similar to the White Lined, I’d be curious to know what this really is. I also posted this a while back: 2013/10/21/carolina-sphinx-11/ We used to get these Carolina sphinx moths for a little while before they seemed to stop coming around, and now we are seeing a few of these White Lined sphinx moths. (most likely what this is) Could it be possible that these White Lined sphinx ran the Carolina sphinx out of town?
Signature: Brittany

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Brittany,
You are correct that this is a Whitelined Sphinx.  We doubt that it has displaced the Carolina Sphinx as the caterpillars have different food sources.  Caterpillars of the Carolina Sphinx, known as Tobacco Hornworms, feed on the leaves of tomato and related plants.  If no one is growing tomato plants near you, you will not have the adult moths nearby.

Letter 26 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Moths
Location: Cedarpines park California
April 21, 2017 11:22 pm
It was nighttime it was on my house very beautiful
Signature: Tina McClellan

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Tina,
Your report is the third posting we have created today of a Whitelined Sphinx sighting.

Letter 27 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject: Is this a Shpinx Fasciata?
Location: Joshua Tree Park, CA. USA. Skull Rock, Park BLVD
June 10, 2017 9:08 am
I made this picture April 26, 2017 in Joshua Tree Park, California.
I searched the internet but I’m not shure this is a Sphinx Fasciata.
R. Janssen
The Netherlands
Signature: Richard

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Richard,
The Whitelined Sphinx is a common species in the desert, but it is not limited to a desert habitat.  This moth is found throughout North America.

Letter 28 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Temecula, CA
Date: 02/08/2018
Time: 09:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found in the kitchen this am! Please ID. Thank you.
How you want your letter signed:  Evelyn Wolfer

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Evelyn,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, probably the most common large Southern California moth.  We have found as many as eight attracted to our porch light on one night.  Earlier this week, we had our first Whitelined Sphinx of the year on the screen door early in the morning.

Wow – thank you for such a fast reply. You are the best!

Letter 29 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  White-lined Sphinx Moth, I Believe
Geographic location of the bug:  Coryell County, Texas
Date: 03/20/2018
Time: 01:09 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello again! Hope you are both well!
This beautiful moth was literally at my feet when I went to check on the creeping phlox, and hahahahaha the proboscis! A built-in bendy-straw, amazing. I don’t know if it was pink from nectar or a reflection from the pink phlox, and perhaps the yellow was from carrying some pollen as well, or perhaps it was its natural color (?).
The phlox is a huge hit with the pollinators, and I’m glad we planted so much of it. It’s an early bloomer here in  centralTexas. We saw pipevine swallowtails and black swallowtails nectaring at the phlox also this month. Lovely!
A reference I found: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Hyles-lineata
Thank you and best wishes!
How you want your letter signed:  Ellen

Whitelined Sphinx

Hi Ellen,
It is so nice to hear from you after so much time.  Your images of a Whitelined Sphinx, AKA Striped Morning Sphinx, are gorgeous.  The underwings of the Whitelined Sphinx are actually pink, and not the result of any reflections.  We have fond memories of the summer phlox in Mom’s garden in Ohio back in the 1960s, and all the butterflies and diurnal moths they attracted.

Whitelined Sphinx

Thank you so much for the quick response and kind words! My poorly-written wondering was about the very-long proboscis. In several photos the proboscis actually looked pink at the flower end. I was wondering if the nectar itself is pink and showing through the membrane of the proboscis. The proboscis also seems to carry pollen in some of my photos. I apologize for the confusion, which I’ll blame either on my over-use of the pronoun “it”, the fact that I tend to ramble on too much,  or perhaps the late hour, or my amusement at the beautiful but very large and pink (!) moth.  The Sphinx makes me smile! Hopefully it will return again today.
Very best wishes to you both!
Ellen

Whitelined Sphinx

Thanks for the clarification Ellen, but alas, we don’t know the answer to your questions.  We have now included a close-up crop of your image to show the proboscis.  Part of the effect is due to the lighting.  The Whitelined Sphinx often flies at dawn and dusk, and since, according to our friend lepidopterist Julian Donahue, Sphinx Moths are relatively long lived, you might see this individual over the next few weeks, and you might even see more.  Periodically, in arid environments, the Whitelined Sphinx populations explode.  We have found as many as eight or more individuals at our screen door some mornings.

What causes the color on the proboscis???

Eight moths at once, amazing! Your memories of phlox in the garden from when you were a child, wonderful. It’s a new plant for me, in the ground just two years, and it’s really taken off this year. I saw five different species of butterflies and moths visiting the phlox yesterday, including two individuals of the White-lined Sphinx moths, just beautiful. As always, I greatly appreciate our help and information. Thank you so very much. Best wishes!

Ellen

Letter 30 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  Moth ID
Geographic location of the bug:  Long Beach, CA
Date: 04/10/2018
Time: 10:16 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello –
This moth has been visiting my front porch for the last 12 hours or so.  I haven’t been able to get a photo with wings open yet, but from what i can see the markings looks like a whitelined sphinx to me.  What do you think?
Thanks a lot for the help!
How you want your letter signed:  Laurie

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Laurie,
This Whitelined Sphinx Moth or Striped Morning Sphinx is one of the most common, large, Southern California Moths and indications are that they are flying in Southern California now.  Just last evening Daniel watched a female ovipositing on the leaves of the sprouting primroses in the garden, and this morning there is one resting on the screen door.  This species tends to fly at dawn and dusk, and it is not unusual for an individual to rest for a day or more before taking flight again.

Letter 31 – Whitelined Sphinxes flying in the Southwest

 

Subject:  Flying large bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Phoenix az
Date: 04/02/2019
Time: 10:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this?
How you want your letter signed:  Honi

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Honi,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx Moth, and they are currently flying in Southern California since there are three resting on the front door of the WTB? offices.  Significant rainfall in the southwest this winter resulted in “super blooms” in many desert areas, and the increase in vegetation also resulted in more food for caterpillars and moths.  We have yet to receive any reports of large numbers of Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars this year, though we suspect we will receive such reports before long.  Some years the Whitelined Sphinx Moths are quite plentiful, and we suspect this will be one of those years.

Letter 32 – Whitelined Sphinx

 

Subject:  moth species
Geographic location of the bug:  Southwest Chicago Suburbs
Date: 10/23/2021
Time: 05:59 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi!
What kind of moth is this? Its eyes are fascinating.
How you want your letter signed:  Cathy Z.

Whitelined Sphinx

Dear Cathy,
This is a Whitelined Sphinx Moth, one of the widest ranging species in its family.  It is found throughout the continental United States.  Sphinx Moths have excellent eyesight.  They are often mistaken for hummingbirds when they take nectar from blossoms while hovering in place.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.

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.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Sphinx Moths

Related Posts

18 Comments. Leave new

  • When I came out of work (on the Torrey Pines Mesa in La Jolla, CA) last night (04/20/09) around 7:30pm I saw hundreds of these White lined Sphinx (thanks for the id) feeding on some shrubs/flowers in front of my building. I had never seen them before, amazing to see so many at once. I could not believe how large some of them were, just like humming birds. I had no idea that there were moths that could beat their wings so fast and hover in one place like that…

    Reply
  • I have had this same Hummingbird Moth in my front yard and I live in Yuma Arizona. I got some great pictures that I am willing to share.

    Reply
  • Saw one of these today and it was quite amazing! I have read about all these larger pretty moths but this is the first one I have ever seen

    Reply
  • WTB you did it again! And thanks go also to Breanna for the white-lined sphinx photo she submitted.
    A little over a week ago it was the pandorus sphinx…tonight my visitor is the white-lined sphinx and with your combined help, it was a quick and easy identification. Speaking with our garden shop owner, he said many people were coming in and talking about the various moths now showing up. BTW, we’re about 20 miles west of Chicago.
    Thank you for this great web site.
    Vivienne

    Reply
  • I’m up near La Canada and saw 2-4 of them tonight, googled “hummingbird moth Los Angeles” and was led here. First time I’ve ever seen one live, v. excited!

    Reply
    • Some years they are more common than in other years. We would not expect large numbers during a record dry year.

      Reply
  • Cynthia Robinson
    February 27, 2014 6:20 am

    I had 6 at the porch light in the front yard and 4 in the back patio here in Rancho Cucamonga, and I’ve never seen so many in such a short time.

    Reply
  • On Easter Sunday these moths were densely populating along a long trail, happy and flying among the local wildflowers on the PV Peninsula . This on a protected PV land conservancy trail starting at Forrestal Drive.

    Reply
    • Caterpillars feed on the leaves of several native wildflowers, and since their diet is not limited to a single plant species or genus, they have had plenty of food this year, and bigger caterpillars make bigger moths. We are seeing White Lined Sphinxes at our office porch light in Mount Washington and yesterday two different individuals got inside when the front door was opened. They had to be returned outside before the office cat got to them.

      Reply
  • Thanks for the confirmation. These are beautiful moths. Still I also miss the Carolina Sphinx. I thought our neighbors were still growing tomatoes, and we also had a couple but they had died recently, and the neighbor’s tomato plants may have also died some time back, which may explain why we are not seeing the Carolina Sphinx now. Hopefully the Whitelined Sphinx doesn’t suffer the same fate. I enjoy catching these moths and releasing them. What do Whitelined Sphinx caterpillars feed on out of curiosity?

    Reply
    • We have not had any Los Angeles reports of Carolina Sphinx sightings, but we expect if they are going to put in an appearance, it may be soon.

      Reply
  • Matt Richardson
    April 24, 2017 7:10 pm

    I think I just found one at my house in Lakewood Ca…..which is in L.A. County

    Reply
  • I just saw and photographed one of these in Kalispell, Montana. Huge moth!

    Reply
  • So glad I found this site! I was a bit freaked out, to be honest. I currently have one of these flying around my kitchen light and it’s the size of a hummingbird! I am in Corona, not too far from the border of Lake Elsinore.

    Reply
  • We get these every year as soon as the Pink Jasmine bloom. They do get big, the size of small hummingbirds. We are farther north, the San Fernando Valley, Northridge

    Reply

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