White-Lined Sphinx Moth


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Common and Scientific Names

The White-lined Sphinx Moth's scientific name is Hyles lineata. Scientific names are given to organisms for their physical appearance and interactions with other organisms.This particular moth has many common names, one of which is "Hummingbird Moth", derived from their hovering and swift flying flight patterns, which is similar to hummingbirds do. Other common names include "Hawk Moth" and "Five-lined Sphinx".

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sphingidae
Subfamily: Macroglossinae

The White-lined Sphinx moth is named for it's physical appearance, as it has characteristic white lines along the veins of the wings and thorax.
The front wing of the sphinx moth is, much like many other moths, larger than the back wing. This wing is brown with a light band running from the base of the wing to the tip. The back wings are typically a light pink (though it can be more reddish) in color with dark brown edges. The abdomen is brown, with white, dark brown, and pinkish geometric markings.

The mouth of the Sphinx Moth is a curled proboscis which can sometimes reach up to and exceed 10 inches. Its antennae are thin at the base, ending slightly enlarged. This moth, like other insects, has six legs. Their wingspan can reach from two and half inches to over five inches in length. Their body length is typically between two and half to three and half inches. These moths are larger than most other species.

In the larvae stage, they do not have a set color combination, but have many different appearances. Sometimes they will be yellow, green, or dark green with brown or yellow stripes and/or brown and pink circles running down its length. They also have a brown head and a horn at the rear of their body as a defense mechanism.

In the late pupa stage, the wing design and head of the adult moth can sometimes be seen through the translucent, brown pupa.


These moths can live in a varitey of different climates and habitats. This can range from deserts to suburbs to gardens. However, the moth is primarily found in desert regions of North America (click link for a list of other
White-lined Sphinx Moth's range throughout North America (not including Alaska and Hawaii). Darker Areas represent higher concentration of moths.

insects found in North America) and can be found on plants after rainfall. Typically they emerge at dusk and will fly through the night and into dawn, but have been recorded at other times throughout the duration of the day ,generally later in the season.

During summer nights, they are attracted to lights and will congregate with each other, other moths species, and other nocturnal insects near these light sources.

Geographic Range

The White-lined Sphinx Moth, the most commonly seen Sphinx Moth, can be found in most contiguous states of the United States, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, and into southern Canada, Mexico, and Central America. However, the White-lined Sphinx Moth is most concentrated in desert regions such as the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. A similar species, Hyles livornica, which resides in Eurasia and Africa, is often confused with the
White-lined Sphinx moth for their similar appearances. The wide-range of this moth is due to it's ability to live in variety of different climates in North America.

Mating Behavior

Mating occurs shortly after the larvae have metamorphed into adults underground and made their way to the surface. Female insects of the moth species release a pheromone, a chemical substance, to attract a male. Different moth species typically have different scents, so the males are less likely to be confused between species. The male then follows the scent to the female. Once the male reaches the female, in most moth species, mating occurs. However, in some, the male is known to release his own pheromone. White-lined Sphinx Moth females can lay up to 1,000 eggs on the underside of leaves and plants, which are typically food plants. In certain areas of North America, such as in the Sonoran Desert, there can be up to two broods of moths, one in spring and the other in summer. The eggs hatch within a few days. Shortly after males and females have finished their roles in reproduction, they both die.

Life Cycle
The white-lined sphinx moth larvae, or caterpillar, is most abundant in the fall. If there are many

caterpillars in the fall then it can be deducted that there will be a high population of white-lined
Sphinx Moth pupa http://www.abdnha.org/pages/08wildlife/reports/cohen.htm
sphinx moths in the spring, when they reemerge from the ground where they had changed through metamorphosis. The larvae does not have a set color pattern, but has a yellow or green body with brown stripes and/or brown and pink circles running down it's length that can be recognized in the adult stage of the moth.Typically they have a brown head. They can reach up to five inches in length with a horn at the rear of the body, which is found in most sphingid moths. If alarmed, they can rear up their heads and from their mouths can issue a thick, green substance. This posture is sometimes described as "sphinx-like".

In their larvae stage they eat a wide variety of plants. This characteristic can be seen in the adult Sphinx Moth, as they feed on a wide variety of flowers. This can contribute to their occasional population bursts which is found more in drier areas of western North America. The larvae can be found on leaves of the plants they depend on.

They burrow just below the soil's surface to pupate and reemerge once complete. The pupa twists and wiggles back and forth to break out of the

pupa stage, and during this creates a crackling sound.

The pupa is brown, and near the time of emergence, the wing design and moth can be seen inside. As soon as the moth emerges it moves around and begins its adult stage of life, or the imago stage. At this stage, the moths are fully mature and is the only stage where they have functional wings. This is also the stage where they reproduce. Information can be found under "Mating Behavior". Both male and female Sphinx Moths die shortly after completing their reproductive roles.

Feeding Habits

The moths emerge from their hiding places at dusk and begin feeding on the nectar of flowers. Their rapid wing beats and size allows them to hover near flowers in similar ways as hummingbirds, which they are sometimes mistaken as. This way of flight causes them to use much energy and create heat. Because of this, they search for flowers with high amounts of water, and therefore sugar, and consume primarily nectar. Some examples of these flowers are the Evening Primrose Family, specifically the Dune Evening Primrose. The Primrose is their chief source of food, and the moths are dependent on them as larvae and through adult life. The moths are therefore known to pollinate these flowers. Other flowers they pollinate, and consume the nectar of, are orchids, petunias, honeysuckles, lilacs, sages and clovers. They are said to prefer white and other pale colored flowers, as those colors are easier to see at night. However, during the day they are seen at many different flower colors. As larvae, they eat the same plants they feed on as adults.

The video to the right shows many White-lined Sphinx Moths flying around and feeding on a Hackberry Bush in the Sonoran Desert.


Ecological Role

The white-lined sphinx moths are primary pollinators of the Primrose Family, as they are their preferred flower to feed on. They are also known be chief pollinators of other flowers in western desert regions and throughout the rest of North America. In the larvae stage they are known to eat off of many different plants, which can cause population bursts and damage to gardens. Their predators include many moth-eating organisms, such as bats and birds.


Field Guide to Insects of North America by Eric R. Eaton & Kenn Kaufman