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Family Sphingidae

The sphinx or hawk moths have a large body with relatively small, pointed wings. The antennae are stout. Most sphinx moths are active at night or dusk. They feed on flower nectar.

Moths and butterflies are not shown in equal proportion to actual size. Photographs © photographer listed and may not be used in any other format without the written permission of the photographer.

 

WMBSmallEyedSphinx.jpg
small-eyed sphinx moth (Paonias myops) Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The wingspan of the small-eyed sphinx moth is one and three-fourths to nearly three inches. The upperside of the wings is brown or black with wavy lines on the forewing. The hindwing has a yellow patch surrounding an eyespot. The forewings are smoothly indented. The underside of the wings has blue eyespots surrounded by black.
 
This species may be seen statewide in Illinois in wooded habitats and urban areas. Adults do not feed. Larvae eat a variety of plant species including those in the genera Prunus (cherries, plums), Amelanchier (shadbushes) and Tilia (basswoods). 

 

hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) Photo © Michael Jeffords
The hummingbird clearwing moth resembles a hummingbird in both size and shape. Its body is thick in the center and tapers to both ends. The antennae are thickened toward the tip. This moth has a wingspan of about one and one-half to two and one-fourth inches. There are large areas in the wings which do not have scales. These areas are surrounded by a red-brown border. The front wings are long and narrow.
 
The hummingbird clearwing moth may be found statewide in Illinois. It is active during the day from April through August. It may be seen in open areas where it feeds like a hummingbird, extending its proboscis into a flower while hovering in front of it. This moth is a very strong flier. The adult feeds on honeysuckle, bee balm, red clover and many other plants. The caterpillar eats the leaves of honeysuckle, hawthorns, cherry and plum trees and other plants. The caterpillar pupates in a cocoon at the surface of the soil.