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The Robinson Library >> Insects >> Order Lepidoptera
Family Sphingidae

(Hawk Moths, Sphinx Moths)


Hawk moths range in size from 1-1/2 to 6 inches in length. They are easily identified by their stout bodies, obvious head, and large eyes. The forewings are typically long and narrow, and much larger than the hind wings. The abdomen is large, with a tapered cigar-shape appearance. Most sphinx moths are brownish, often marked with a bright color.


Hawk moths have the longest tongues of all lepidopterans, up to 14 inches long in many species.

Distribution and Habitat

There are about 850 species of hawk moths worldwide, with the highest diversity being in wet tropical regions. They are common in woodlands, meadows, and gardens.


Eggs are laid singly on the underside of the larval food plant, with up to 100 or more eggs being laid per season.

A sphinx moth caterpillar can usually be identified by the "horn" at the rear of the body. Some caterpillars have lateral stripes and/or large eye spots on the thorax and abdominal segments.

Hawk Moth Caterpillar
Hawk Moth Caterpillar

When ready to pupate, the caterpillar will move down into the leaf litter and make a rough open cocoon or cell on soil surface. The pupal stage lasts 1-25 weeks.

Adult sphinx moths live several weeks, during which time they feed often, breed, and lay eggs.

Scientific Classification

phylum Arthropoda
class Insecta
order Lepidoptera
family Sphingidae
genera & species
Cephonodes kingii bee hawk moth
Cizara ardeniae cizara hawk moth
Coequosa triangularis double-headed hawk moth
Hippotion celerio grapevine hawk moth
Psilogramma menephron privet hawk moth
Theretra latreilla pale brown hawk moth
Theretra oldenlandiae impatiens hawk moth

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The Robinson Library >> Insects >> Order Lepidoptera

This page was last updated on June 19, 2018.