White-Lined Sphinx

Hyles lineata
Sphingidae (sphinx moths)

Adult sphinx moths have protruding heads, large eyes, a large “furry” thorax, and a conical abdomen that extends well beyond the hindwings when the moth flies. On this species, the top of the long forewing is dark olive brown with a narrow tan band running from the base of the wing to the tip and with light tan streaks along the veins.

Larvae vary; bright yellow-green or bluish-black with rows of whitish to yellow spots or dots and veinlike tracings. The caudal horn, which looks something like a tail, is yellowish green or black.

Wingspan: 2½–3½ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Woodlands, fields, gardens, and suburbs. The adults often fly during daylight hours as well as in the night and are often found at lights. Because this moth can hover and visits flowers, many people mistake it for a hummingbird.
Larvae feed on a great variety of herbaceous plants, of which purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is probably the favorite in Missouri. The adults visit a great variety of flowers, including honeysuckle, columbine, moonvine, lilac, jimsonweed, larkspur, and petunia.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common to abundant, widely distributed, resident species.
Life cycle: 
Adults fly from early April into November. Larvae burrow underground in order to metamorphose into adults.
Human connections: 
In the Southwest, where this species sometimes swarms, at least one American Indian tribe used the larvae as a food source.
Ecosystem connections: 
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.
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