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Catalpa Sphinx Moth (Ceratomia catalpa)

Catalpa Sphinx Moth
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Catalpa sphinx of the hawk moth family is known to be a major pest of catalpa trees, thus resulting in its name. The moth mainly occurs in the southeastern part of North America alongside Maine, Iowa, Florida, and Texas.

Description and Identification  

Caterpillar

Catalpa Sphinx Moth Larvae
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In the larval stage, it is known as catawba, or catalpa worm, and has a lighter coloration after emergence – white, spotted in black. As they mature, their coloration eventually changes to a darker shade. They mostly appear yellow with a black striped running through their back, alongside black dots to their sides.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Genus: Ceratomia
  • Scientific Name: Ceratomia catalpa

One of the most interesting aspects of the catalpa sphinx moth is its different color phases. Besides the dark form, there is also a pale one, barely visible, though. In the latter, the black stripes are either not visible prominently or entirely missing, replaced by white lines. They grow to 5 cm (1.96 inches) on average, mainly feeding on catalpa leaves.

Pupa

Catalpa Sphinx Moth Pupa
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After the fifth instar, the larva enters into a wandering phase, leaving the host plants and getting onto the ground to spot a suitable burying place. The pupal skin is soft and translucent at the beginning, eventually hardening and turning to light brown. The spindled pupa remains underground in the soil safely encased inside a white cocoon.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Not prominent

Color and Appearance

Forewings: When opened, they appear yellowish-brown with vague black dashes and lines running across them. There is also a grayish-white spot close to the cell outlined in black. When closed, the color and patterns remain the same, with the dashes and spots less prominently seen.

Ceratomia catalpa
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Hindwings: When opened, the color is similar to that of the forewing, yellowish-brown with faint lines going across. When closed, there is no change in the coloration, with the lines rarely seen.

Average Wingspan: 6.5 – 9.5 cm

Flight Pattern: Consistent (hovering flight pattern like hummingbirds)

Season: May – September

Egg

Catalpa Sphinx Moth Eggs
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The eggs appear translucent and oval, with the color varying from yellow to green to milky-white. The bigger masses of eggs are mainly deposited on the leaves’ undersides. In comparison, the smaller masses remain on the catalpa tree’s branches. They have a diameter of approximately 0.5mm, hatching in 5 -7 days from the time it is laid.

Quick Facts

DistributionSoutheastern parts of North America, alongside Maine, Florida, Iowa, and Texas
HabitatDeciduous woodlands, forests
PredatorsWasps, and birds
Lifespan of Adults10-30 days
Host PlantsNorthern catalpa, southern catalpa
Adult DietNectars from flowers

Did You Know

  • French botanist Jean Baptiste Alphonse Déchauffour de Boisduval  described this species in 1875.
Catalpa Sphinx Moth Picture
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Catalpa Sphinx Moth Photo
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Catalpa Sphinx Moth Image
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