Pandora Sphinx Moth

I recently posted about a report of Lime Green Hawkmoth in Illinois. Now that I have a picture, I can say that the markings appear to be that of the Pandora Sphinx and are definitely not Lime Green Hawkmoth.

The Pandora Sphinx was first described in North America in 1802. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of grape. Like many hawk moths, the Pandora Sphinx can be seen at night hovering about flowers in the tobacco family such as nicotiana and petunia. The Pandora Sphinx is a large impressive moth. 2010 has been a banner year for Lepidoptera in Northern Indiana. I have seen larger numbers of hawk moths this year than in previous years.
Pandora Sphinx. Submitted photo.

While the basic color motif is similar between the Lime Green Hawk Moth and the Pandora Hawk moth, the patterns are different. The Pandora Hawk Moth has the characteristic pink lines on the veins and pink stripes on the inner hind wing.

Update: 9/15/10 The local news brought a Pandora Sphinx to the department today asking about it being an invasive. Perhaps the large numbers of sightings means that the populations are larger than previous years?

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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35 Responses to Pandora Sphinx Moth

  1. Seung Hyun Lee says:

    I have read about Pandora Sphinx Moth. The fact that Pandora Sphinx Moth has pink vein and pink stripes on the inner hind wing. I’m not sure how they survive at night in the tobacco field. Do they eat tobacco? I never knew there was moth that is green and I’m guessing the moth is huge compare to other kind of moth.

  2. jjneallwi says:

    The larvae feed on grape leaves. The adults feed on nectar. Adults prefer flowers that are open at night and are commonly seen at petunias, nicotiana and other flowers. They are one of the larger moths.

  3. robertk says:

    I like coloration and design of the Pandora Sphinx moth and the information you gave on the moth, but I am curious to know more about it, where did it originate, is it an invasive species? What are the differences in male and female moths, are there any cool traits that set them apart from regular moths? Are there any other ways to recognize them and can they only be seen at night when they are feeding?

    • Anonymous says:

      I just know that the female is larger than the male. We had 3 caterpillars and left them in a large container with dirt. They buried themselves and the first one emerged on the 31st day (yesterday) and the next one emerged the day after. (today). We are expecting the 3rd one to emerge tomorrow. We let the first take flight outside in the evening and will do the same with the remaining 2. They are just beautiful!

  4. chris says:

    I found one on the front of my house and now am looking hard to find larva, pupa or caterpillars I have lots of grapevine to look through. they are so beautiful. Chris

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi -I am anonymous who wrote the comment on August 29/11. We had 3 caterpillars of the pandora sphinx moth. As I wrote before 2 of them emerged and we let them take flight. The 3rd one is still buried in the dirt and it buried itself 2nd of the 3 of them. The first one emerged on day 31 and the second one on day 30. We thought the 3rd would follow suit, but it is now the 37th day for this 3rd one to be pupating. Does anyone know if this is unusual or to be expected. Any answer would be appreciated as we hope there is nothing wrong with this one. We are hoping to see it emerge soon before cold weather arrives. We live in southern Ontario. Thank you . L

  6. jjneal says:

    It is great that you had good success with 2 of them. I have not tried raising Pandora Sphinx, but other sphinx moths are quite variable in their time of emergence.

    Alternatively, It is not unusual for insects to not complete pupation successfully. Your pupa may be dead or it may have gone into an overwintering state of diapause.

    You could dig it up and see if it looks OK. If pupae are still alive, they will move. You should be able to tell if it started to emerge but failed to complete the emergence. I hope you took some good pictures.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thankyou for the information. I thought it might be overwintering and maybe we will dig it up to see the condition of it. The only info I had read was on Wikipedia. They stated that it takes from 2 weeks to 2 months for them to pupate. Today is day 41. Whatever we decide to do I’ll keep you posted and yes we took pictures. We also had success in June in raising and releasing a black swallowtail butterfly. We found the caterpillar for it on our parsley in the garden, looked online for info, followed it and were rewarded with a beautiful female black swallowtail. It is such a great experience being so involved in nature. Thanks again!

      • Anonymous says:

        Hello Again! Today is the 52nd day for our third pandora to be buried. We have decided to wait until the end of September and then dig it up and see what the problem is. I sure hope it decides to emerge before that. It has been a wonderful look at the miracle of nature this summer. Will keep you informed as to what results. Thanks – L

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello from Ontario again, My husband and I did dig up the crysalis of the 3rd pandor moth today.
    It was in beautiful shape and when touched with a slight pressure began to wriggle, so we decided to re-bury it and let nature take its course. Also when checking on my parsley plants to see if any seeds were ready to harvest, we came across 5 black swallowtail caterpillars. One is very tiny, and the other 4 look to be in the 2nd instar. We want to be able to raise them, but we need advise on how to keep them overwinter once they form into chrysalis stage. If you have any recommendations we would surely appreciate it. – regards from Chatham, Ontario -L & P

    • browny says:

      For the Black Swallowtails, I would collect the pupae and put them where it is cool but sheltered such as in the window of a shed. Birds and other predators will eat them if they are found.

      In Spring they will respond to day length and warmer temperatures to tell them when to emerge. You can bring them inside and keep them in a ventilated box to watch them emerge. They need a perch such as stick so they can get vertical to spread their wings properly.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thankyou browny for the advice. We don’t really have a place outside like a shed or garage to put them. We do have a pantry that is part of our underground basement and it is cool even in the summer and pretty cold in winter. So am thinking of placing the pupae there once they form. Also thought about getting a small fridge (even a bar fridge) and putting them in there for the winter. Any other thoughts or suggestions would be gratefully received. We did raise a black swallowtail butterfly in June/July this past summer. We found it on our parsley in the 4th instar and brought it indoors and were able to successfully raise and then release it once it emerged and had its wings ready to fly. It is so amazing to see the miracle of nature unfold. Very exciting for us! Thankyou – L & P

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hello again from Chatham Ontario- We had 5 BS “cats” and then found another to bring it to 6.
    The other day one of the first 5 had left a messy stool in the bottom of the container and then started to roam quickly all over the container. I could tell by previous experience that it was looking for a place to pupate, even though it had not even reached the instar stage of being yellow.
    We removed it from that container and placed in alone in another with 3 sticks and food. It did not eat or exrete anything after this. It just kept roaming all over and yesterday morning it had attached itself to a small piece of cardboard that we had laid in the bottom. It had the silk thread wrapped around it also. This morning ‘lo and behold’ if there wasn’t a tiny green chrysalis. It is not quite one inch in length. How can this be a viable butterfly as it has not completed all the stages of development? We don’t know whether to keep it in the fridge now or discard it, as it seems to have jumped the gun. What do you think we should do and what outcome would you expect? Thank you. L & P

  9. jjneal says:

    Black swallowtails vary in size. One inch is near the typical range. The wings are highly folded and greatly expand when it emerges. I would hang onto it and see if it emerges.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thankyou jjneal-We are going to put this chrysalis in the fridge and wait and see. Will keep posting when there are interesting happenings. All the best- L & P

      • Anonymous says:

        Hello jjneal- As of Saturday, Oct 15, 2011 , we have stored in our fridge 5 black swallowtail chrysalises. Of our 6 caterpillars, only 1 did not make it through, as it wore itself out in search of a pupation location, even though we had one right there ready for it. It just would not settle down and before going to bed one night, we saw it starting to calm down on the stick we had set for it, but in the morning it was on the bottom of the container and died. So now we wait and see. Will let you know how it all turns out. Thanks for the site and the information. – from Chatham, Ontario L & P

      • jjneal says:

        Good luck. I hope they emerge in Spring.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hello jjneal- Today our third pandora sphinx moth emerged and it is the 211th day since it buried itself. It is in perfect condition. However, it is too cold as yet to release it outdoors and we are going to try to keep it alive by feeding a nectar solution in the same ratio that we use for the hummingbirds in the summer. It is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Other than that we don’t know what else we can do to make sure it survives. Do you have any recommendations for us?
    We would surely appreciate any information about keeping a moth for at least 3 months indoors.
    Thankyou so much- – from Chatham, Ontario L & P

  11. jjneal says:

    Very Cool. A solution of sugar water or honey water is what is usually used. A good honey will have some pollen mixed in so the moth will get a little protein with its sugar. Good luck.

    There was a gentleman in Fargo, North Dakota who rescued a Monarch Butterfly in October and kept it alive on honey water until February.

    http://livingwithinsects.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/update-on-flutter/

    • Anonymous says:

      Thankyou so much for the info and the encouragement. We will do our best to keep our beautiful house guest alive. Will keep you informed as to our results. L & P Chatham ON

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hello jjneal- We are very sorry to report that our Pandora Sphinx Moth only survived for 13 days.
    It was very active during night hours. We saw it flying and hovering about in the makeshift home we had for it. Then yesterday, we noticed it had its probiscus protruding when in the usual daytime postion of just resting. Further investigation proved that it had died. It had so much energy that we were surprised to find it that way. Do you happen to know the usual length of time for the Pandora to live in nature? We still have our 5 Black Swallowtail chrysalises in the fridge and they look just the same as they did in October. Hoping to have better luck with them. Of course, if they do emerge when we bring them out in the warmer weather, they will be able to be released right away. They will have a better chance for survival. We were saddened by the loss of our little friend. Thank you so much for this site. It is very helpful to all of us who love and live with insects. All the best to you- L & P Chatham, ON

    • jjneal says:

      I don’t know the range of lifespan for adult Pandora Sphinx. My guess is 2 weeks is close to the median life span. I am glad you got to see it emerge.

      Good luck with the swallowtails.

  13. Wishbone says:

    toady cane to work and low and behold there was a leaf on my desk, so I thought ! Not at all it was a Pandora Sphinx, beautiful as can be . Having never seen one I asked arounfd the office and David was familiar with the species, the are just eye catching when they are still. The question is now how did this Pandora Sphinx get into a warehouse and on my desk. We are in Houston , Texas is this species common in these parts ? Waiting for the fella to fly off so I can see it in flight , should be worth the wait .

    • jjneal says:

      They are common in Texas and fly at this time of the year. The usually fly at night.
      So you may have to wait until evening before it will fly. It may fly during the day if disturbed.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hello jjneal! From Chatham, Ontario again with news of our 5 Black Swallowtail chrysalises that overwintered in the fridge. We took them out on May 11th after 7 months in the refrigerator. On May 28th the first one had emerged, but its wings did not fully open. They remained in a curly state, but all the markings were still visible and quite normal. As it could not fly, we kept it in a plastic container and fed it fruit juice. It would try to fly, but could only sort of skip about. It had quite a bit of energy, but eventually died on May 31st. One of the other chrysalises had some kind of small beetle come out of it, which had apparently eaten the caterpillar inside. The other 3 are still looking fine and we are hoping to see some good results soon. None of the caterpillars went through all the instar stages as they normally do, so they were quite small when they pupated. The butterfly that emerged was very petite. We had raised one BS before in summer 2011 and when it emerged and was set free, it was about 4 1/2 inches across and a perfect specimen. I would be interested to know if other people have had success in overwintering the BS. Still enjoying living with insects. Thank you again. L and P, Chatham, ON

  15. jjneal says:

    Glad to hear you have had some success. When the butterfly emerges, it sometimes needs to be in a vertical position to fully expand its wings. I find that placing the chrysalis in a shoe box on its end (so it is in its tallest position) with a stick for climbing, that the new adult will climb the stick and be able to spread its wings. Good luck with your other chrysalises. If you have dill in your garden, you might look for black swallowtail caterpillars that you could rear and they will emerge as adults yet this summer. I have 3 black swallowtail caterpillars on a dill plant in my office currently.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hello jjneal-We have a lot of parsley in our garden again this year. That is where we found a total of 7 BS swallowtails last year. We are hoping to have more this year as well. Being able to rear them in the summer is so much easier. I don’t know if we would try to overwinter any again. It is so “iffy”, but still waiting to see what happens with our last 3 chrysalises. Will let you know the results. All the best- L and P from Chatham, ON

  17. Ms. Sanders says:

    Hello,
    I have one of these Pandoria Sphinx Moth larva, which I found in my mom’s yard, and brought in to share with my third graders. It has survived for 6 days in our classroom, but when we returned to school today, it had little white things hanging all over it, and it seems to be very inactive. At first, it was still hanging upside down on one of the twigs, but later in the day, it fell, and seemed to be dead. However, after I moved the casing a bit, I did see slight movment, so I guess it’s still with us. I put soil in the habitat today, after reading that it needs to burrow down to pupate. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

  18. Colly says:

    I have a moth that has stuck to me for the last six hours. I tried to take it outside but could not get it off me, it kept jumping back onto me. Is this normal? I googled it because never in my life have I ever seen such an unusual moth and found out that it is a Pandora Sphinx Moth found usually in North America, I am in Germany at an exhibition, it sits on my hand like a ring. Is this normal?

    • jjneal says:

      It isn’t normal.
      Pandora Sphinx is not supposed to be in Europe. Quite possibly you have one of the European species of Eumorpha?
      I don’t know why it would rest on your hand and not leave. The moths are not very active in daylight. They also can be attracted to chemicals that they use to communicate with and find each other. If your ring or hand has some of that chemical or a similar chemical on it, it might explain the attraction.

      • Colly says:

        Thanks for the reply. It will probably remain a mystery concerning the attraction. Moritz, I named him Moritz, stayed on my hand, finger and arm for 12 hours until I put him onto a box and waited for him to get active. Eventually he jumped onto the wall then the curtains and started to, what seemed like, vibrate. So I figured he wanted out, I put him on my hand again and sat at the window for about ten minutes before he eventually decided to fly away. It was a very interesting experience and fascinating for all who witnessed it. When I googled him I immediately found the perfect photo, that is how I came to find out the name.

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