White-lined sphinx moth (August 2, 2013)

The insect of the week is the White-Lined Sphinx Moth.

Guest post by Sydney Glass, Integrated Pest Management Intern


            The caterpillar of the white-lined sphinx moth can vary in coloration, but all sphinx moths have a “horn” on their tail, as do the caterpillars of tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm. The white lined sphinx usually has a yellow or orange horn tail with a black tip, and has a body that is usually orange, yellow, or green with black stripes on the side and will have pale spots along the side. The feet are usually orange. The body can reach 3 inches long.

            The adult is usually very large and is brown with grey and pink bands. These moths can sometimes be easily mistaken as hummingbirds. They are very common in West Texas and on the High Plains.


            Sphinx moth adults eat nectar from flowering plants. They prefer to feed in the afternoon and evening. Caterpillars prefer to feed on chickweed, mustards, purslane, apple, evening primrose, tomato, willow weed, and will even feed on a few crops like corn, but only occasionally and if no other food source available.


            There is absolutely no bite with white-lined sphinx moths, nor are they poisonous.

For more information here is a link to a page on bugguide.net about white-lined sphinx moths, including more photos.

White-lined sphinx caterpillar. Photo Credit: Jakob Bingham.