White-lined Sphinx

The white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata) usually flies at dawn and dusk, although it also flies during the day. This specimen was photographed at Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge (Modoc County CA) in the late afternoon, although it was an overcast day.

Found from Southern Canada to Latin America from the Atlantic to Pacific, this moth also resides in Eurasia, Africa and the West Indies. White-lined sphinx prefer open habitats.

The adult white-lined sphinx has dark olive-brown forewings with a buff band that runs from near the base of the wing to the tip. The hind wings are black with a reddish-pink median band. Unfortunately the moth did not spread its wings while I observed it, so the reddish band does not appear in the photographs. There are six white stripes on the brown thorax. The brown abdomen has dark spots on each segment separated by three dorsal lines broken lengthwise.

White-lined sphinx caterpillars (larvae) do not have a set color pattern. They often have bright green bodies with yellow, buff, orange or black markings. Others are yellow with brown and pink or brown with yellow, orange and pink. Confusing! Caterpillars pupate in shallow burrows in the ground.

Adult white-lined sphinx drink nectar from a variety of flowers including columbines, larkspurs, clovers, thistles, honeysuckles and many garden plants. A large variety of plants, among them apples, evening primroses, purslane, tomatoes, willow weed and fuschias, are hosts for caterpillars.

White-lined sphinx moths whir and move like hummingbirds and are thus sometimes called hummingbird moths. However, there are other moths that resemble hummingbirds even more than the white-lined sphinx does, and to those, I believe, the appellation “hummingbird moth” more appropriately belongs.  Striped morning sphinx is another colloquial name for H. lineata.

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