Sphinx moths are notable for their fast flight and rapid wingbeat. These attributes account for one of their common names — “hawk” moth. Most species of sphinx moths are capable of hovering in front of the flower from which they are drinking nectar, and some species are referred to as “hummingbird” moths.
In their larval form, sphinx moths are notable for the horn which extends upward near the end of their abdomen. Tomato growers are familiar with the Tobacco Hornworm (Tobacco Hawk Moth/Carolina Sphinx Moth) and Tomato Hornworm (Five-spotted Hawk Moth).
Less frequently encountered is the larva of the Great Ash Moth (Sphinx chersis). Named for a host plant of the adult moth, this greenish or pinkish caterpillar has seven long diagonal lines along its body, which are sometimes edged with pink. Its black spiracles (external openings that allow gas exchange) are elongate and ringed with white. Its horn is blue or pink. As an adult moth, it is gray with black markings and has a wingspan of up to five inches. You’re most likely to see this moth at dusk, feeding at deep-throated flowers. (Thanks to Heidi Marcotte and Tom Wetmore for photo op.)
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