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Big Poplar Sphinx Moth (Pachysphinx occidentalis)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 2/5/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Big Poplar Sphinx Moth  
Picture of Big-Poplar-Sphinx-Moth
Picture of Big-Poplar-Sphinx-Moth Picture of Big-Poplar-Sphinx-MothPicture of Big-Poplar-Sphinx-Moth

The large and quick Big Poplar Sphinx Moth is at home in the wild and domesticated West.

Sphinx Moths are first recognized for their great size. They are the biggest of the Hawk Moths in western North America. Despite having a huge wingspan over 11 cm (4.3 inches), the enormous, seemingly hefty, Big Poplar Sphinx Moth is exceedingly fast in the air. It may slow down to sun itself on a bright day, but it is mighty in flight, just like a hawk. Adults have furry heads and bodies. Wings are half light brown (near the head) and half dark brown. A wavy pattern forms an obvious border in the center of each wing. A scalloped edge at the bottom of each wing mirrors the center line. A thin whitish fringe runs along the bottom edge. A single, small, white dash on the dark part of each wing points toward the rear. Legs are dark brown.

The caterpillar for this moth is a pale green with a sharp-looking horn (that looks more like a thorn) at its tail end. This horn has a pale stripe on it. Thin diagonal stripes run along the sides of the body. Small white spots dot the sides of the tubular body. Poplar, cottonwood and willow tree leaves make up the bulk of this caterpillar's diet. Once it has grown in size, the caterpillar pupates just under the ground's surface in a cocoon made of earth.

Picture of the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth
Picture of the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth

Big Poplar Sphinx Moth Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Big Poplar Sphinx Moth
Scientific Name: Pachysphinx occidentalis
Other Name(s): Western Poplar Sphinx Moth

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Lepidoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Sphingidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Pachysphinx
       Arrow graphic Species: occidentalis

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 115 mm to 150 mm (4.485 inches to 5.85 inches)
Identifying Colors: brown, white, tan, ivory, pink
Additional Descriptors: large, flying, furry, hairy, striped

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alaska; Arizona; California; Colorado; Idaho; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; Oklahoma; Oregon; Texas; Utah; Washington; Wyoming; British Columbia; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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