Often mistaken for a hummingbird, the White Lined Sphinx Moth is a huge insect. It is extremely beautiful and its wings make a purring, or humming sound as the insect moves, using the same quick hover-and-dart technique that a hummingbird has!
White Lined Sphinx Moths are often seen in dry regions after rains, although they occur throughout much of North America. They are very useful in the pollination of evening primroses, honeysuckle, columbine, jimson weed, clover, orchids and petunias. Sphinx Moths suck the nectar from these flowers using long proboscises, or tube-like tongues specially adapted to sucking flower nectar. The flight of White Lined Sphinx Moths is very quick and graceful. They can hover over flowers before zooming over to another area in a manner very similar to that of a hummingbird. Because this flight pattern requires so much energy and produces such large amounts of body heat, the White Lined Sphinx Moth usually emerges at dusk to seek out flowers whose nectar has a high amount of energy-giving sugar in the fluid. The White Lined Sphinx Moth may remain active all night and sometimes into the morning. Before Sphinx Moths are moths, they are a rather ugly looking caterpillar! These caterpillars will burrow underground and change into moths there. The mature White Lined Sphinx Moth must then dig its way up to the surface.
White Lined Sphinx Moths are lovely and large, with a wingspan of between two and nine inches! These wings are mainly brown. A thin tan line runs from the base of the wing to its tip. The forewing is olive brown in color, although the outer margin of the wing may be a bit lighter in shade. The veins of the White Lined Sphinx Moth are accompanied by white streaks. The hind wing is characterized by a velvety black or dark brown color, which is accented by a reddish pink color that fills in the middle of the wing. White Lined Sphinx Moths are usually between two and a half and three inches in length. Some have a proboscis that is ten centimeters long! Their heads are black and the thoraxes are brown. Each White Lined Sphinx Moth has six white stripes on its thorax and two dark spots on each segment of its abdomen. Their caterpillars are green (and sometimes black-striped) and have no hair. They are characterized by a horn found on one end of their bodies. A European relative of the White Lined Sphinx Moth is the Death's Head Sphinx Moth which seen in the movie Silence of the Lambs.
The White Lined Sphinx Moth is found through much of North America. They are often killed while still remaining in the caterpillar stage, as these "hornworm" caterpillars are a threat to tomato, pepper, and grape crops. White Lined Sphinx Moths are also known as Hawk Moths or Hummingbird Moths and in fact are quite easy to mistake for hummingbirds.