Moths, Pacific Northwest
The White Lined Sphinx Moth is from the family Sphingidae, it is also called the hummingbird moth because of its hovering, swift flight patterns and it is about the same size as a hummingbird.
These big bodied moths have long fore wings and short hind wings, with wingspans up to 20 cm. Many species pollinate flowers such as orchids, petunias and evening primroses while sucking their nectar with a proboscis that can reach up to 25 cm long in some species.
These moths can be seen on most of Vancouver Island but are not common, they prefer dryer habitats.
White lined sphinx moths are among the largest flying insects of the pacific northwest, with adult wingspans exceeding 20 cm and the larvae can be quite large as well, with most having a prominent horn at the rear of their fleshy body. When alarmed, the larvae will rear up their heads in a threatening posture.
The white lined sphinx has a prominent brown head, a brown thorax with 6 white stripes along with a brown abdomen that has paired dark spots on each segment. The fore wings are brown with a buff colored band from base to tip and veins outlined in white. The hind wings are pink, turning to dark brown near the margins.
Sphinx moth larvae change underground into adult moths, who then dig their way to the surface. Mating occurs shortly thereafter, with females laying as many as 1,000 eggs on the underside of food plants. Eggs hatch within a few days. Here in the pacific northwest, there will be one brood per year but in warmer climates, there can be a spring and fall brood.
Sphinx moths emerge at dusk from their hiding places and begin feeding on the nectar of flowers. Their size, combined with their rapid wing beats, allows them to hover and feed in the manner of hummingbirds, for which they are sometimes mistaken.