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Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa)

Tersa sphinx of the Sphingidae or hawk moth family has a wide range spreading from the United States to Mexico, parts of West Indies, and even Central America and South America. The two subspecies of the moth include Xylophanes tersa chaconi and Xylophanes tersa tersa.

Tersa Sphinx Moth

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Scientific Classification


  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Genus: Xylophanes
  • Scientific Name: Xylophanes tersa

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

The tersa sphinx moth larvae growing to approximately 8cm have varying colors from pale to dark green. The light or dark-colored eyespots situated on their abdomen’s first segment make them look ditto-like snakes. The larvae are mostly referred to as ‘sphinx’ as they retract their thoracic segments and head into their abdomen. All specimens possess a horn at the back. Matured larvae make burrows in the plant debris, where they also build a cocoon and prepare for the pupal phase.

Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

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Pupa

The pupa has a tan body, with eyespots on its abdominal segments.

Tersa Sphinx Moth Pupa

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Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present but less prominent

The females are bigger with a rounded appearance, while the males have a more angular shape. The former even possess a rounder abdomen than the latter.

Color and Appearance

Forewings: When opened, it is pale brown on the upperside and lavender gray near the base, intersected with dark brown lines. When closed, there is no significant change in the color and pattern.

Hindwings: When opened, the upperside remains dark brown with a band comprising whitish wedge-shaped marks. When closed, the color is unchanged though the wedge-shaped marks are less visible.

Average Wingspan: 6 – 8 cm

Flight Pattern: Consistent

Season: May – October; February – November

Xylophanes tersa

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Egg

The eggs mostly appear green, laid on the undersides of their host plants’ leaves, and hatch in about nine days.

Tersa Sphinx Moth Eggs

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Quick Facts

DistributionDifferent parts of the United States from Massachusetts to South Florida, Nebraska to New Mexico, southern Arizona); West Indies, South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay), and Central America
HabitatMostly near woodlands like other moths of its family
PredatorsWasps, and birds
Lifespan of AdultsAbout one month
Host PlantsFalse buttonweed, catalpa, wild coffee, ice cream bean
Adult DietNectar of flowers like honeysuckle

Did You Know

  • Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus described it first in 1771.
  •  Despite the horns the larvae are not poisonous and easy-to-handle.
Tersa Sphinx Moth Image

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Tersa Sphinx Moth Picture

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Tersa Sphinx Moth Photo

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