Sphinx Moth

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The White-lined Sphinx Moth appears, often in great numbers, during the late summer here in North County. They are powerful flyers and are often mistaken for hummingbirds as they feed on the same kinds of flowers. Normally they emerge after sunset on warm evenings, but when the nights start getting chilly it is not unusual to see them flying around in the late afternoon.

The distinctive coloration of these moths make them stand out when they are at rest against a light colored surface, but on trees and plants they are very hard to spot. Toward the end of the season it is not unusual to find them at rest on structures near lights.

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The back, or under wings sometimes show a light pink color when the wings are fully extended, and if you see the wings open from below, the bold stripes and patterns on will look blurred (see the picture above).

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The above picture of a Sphinx Moth on a stucco wall shows the characteristic cross striped pattern on the wings. When the moth is at rest the wings are only slightly spread giving it a triangular shape.

The larvae are large hornworms that pupate in the soil and are a favorite food for skunks and raccoons. The worms are usually a light reddish brown in color and resemble a tomato hornworm in size and shape. The pupae are shiny and brown in color and stay underground during the winter months but emerge when the weather warms up in the spring as the days get longer.