White-Lined Sphinx Moth

2018 September 8

The evening of August 13, 2018 was very warm and nice, so we were all out in the back yard just after sunset to enjoy it. While strolling past the petunia patch, I saw this gray shape hovering around the blossoms. It was about the size of a hummingbird, and was acting a lot like one, but that’s not what it was. It was this moth:


I really wasn’t sure the pictures were going to come out at all, but it turned out that if I put the TG-3 into “Sport” mode (very fast shutter speed), pointed it in the general direction of the moth, and fired away, it actually did a pretty reasonable job of getting pictures. The fast shutter “froze” the motion of the wings, which were nothing but a blur to the naked eye. We can also see the very long tongue that it is using to sip nectar from flowers.


Every time the flash went off, I would be momentarily blinded, while I heard a muffled “hummmmm” as the moth flew around my head for a second. Then it would drink from another blossom long enough for me to find it and line up another shot. Eventually, I got one that showed the wing pattern:


That picture pretty much clinched the ID. This was a White-Lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata. Nothing else in this area has that pattern of white lines on the wings.

And then, two days later on the morning of August 15, I spotted what was possibly the same exact moth roosting for the day on one of our lawn chairs. While I was pretty pleased with the “action shots”, it is hard to beat static shots in daylight for seeing fine detail, so here they are:





White-lined sphinxes are a common, widespread moth that BugGuide shows as having been found practically everywhere in North America. They are as agile in the air as a hummingbird, with the main difference being that they come out at twilight instead of flying during the day. The adults like large, deep-throated flowers like petunias, because they can reach way down in for nectar that bees have difficulty getting to. They are fun to watch, because they hover quite a long time at each flower, and then zip off to the next one. We followed this one from blossom to blossom for probably 15 minutes or so.

The caterpillars are highly variable in color (mostly variations on green and black, with white or red spots), and eat all kinds of things including plants in the rose family, the primrose family, and even crops like tomatos. BugGuide says that they overwinter as pupae in the soil, and can have two broods during the year, but I really don’t see how that could work for this one. Any eggs it lays would have to get hatched out and grow up to pupating size before the first frost in mid-October, and I really don’t see that they have time to make it. Wikipedia goes into more detail on their life history, though. It seems that they can also get through the winter as partially-grown caterpillars that bury themselves underground, coming back up to eat some more in the spring and early summer before reburying themselves to pupate. Given the timing, that seems much more likely for our local specimens.

4 Responses
  1. September 21, 2018

    First, sphinx moths are the best. I want to keep them as pets, but I doubt they’d have any idea of our relationship. Kind of like my girlfriends in junior high.

    But I digress.

    The photography is wonderful, too. Beautiful as always.

    Finally, here’s one for you. http://ktcatspost.blogspot.com/2018/09/jules-verne-novels.html

  2. September 21, 2018

    Thanks, KT. My post that is scheduled to go up tomorrow also features a sphinx moth, but the photos are . . . different.

  3. Flashpaqrgc permalink
    August 3, 2021

    Europe, and in Ancient Russia

  4. Serieslmy permalink
    September 14, 2021

    Western Europe also formed

Comments are closed.