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Nature Note: White-lined sphinx moth

Nature Note: White-lined sphinx moth

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Have you noticed a large hummingbird-like moth in your garden these days? If so, it’s probably a white-lined sphinx moth, a common moth throughout North America. There are two broods, one in the spring and another in the fall. The moths are seen in our area from early April into November. They spend the winter in Central America.

The white-lined sphinx is a stout-bodied moth with long pointed wings and a long tapering abdomen. The furry brown body and wings are brown. The forewings have a tan band going from the base to the tip and is crossed by thin white lines, hence the name. The hindwings are pink in the middle. The impressive wingspan is from 2½ to 3½ inches.

Most sphinx moths fly at night; however, the white-lined sphinx flies during the day as well. Since it is large and hovers in front of flowers, it can easily be mistaken for a hummingbird. It has a long proboscis and feeds on tubular flowers, brightly colored ones in the daytime, white ones at night. White flowers are easier seen at night.

The larva (caterpillar) belongs to the hornworm family. It is a large (2¾ inches long), cylindrical, lime green caterpillar with a yellow or orange horn at the back end. The horn is not a stinger, so the caterpillar is harmless and can be handled. Along each of its sides is a row of black spots with orange and yellow centers.


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