The two-toned wings of the Modest Sphinx Moth are as dramatic as they are demure.
The Modest Sphinx is a large, hairy moth that has a few color variations. Wings can be gray, taupe, or brown in color. The same overall pattern generally splits the wings into two major color bands: the upper part of the forewings are a lighter band of color than the darker, lower half. In some individuals, the lower half also splits into another lighter band of color for a rippled, three-tone effect. In the darker center of each forewing is a white dash or caret. When completely spread flat, one can see that the hindwings have a deep purple color to them. The bottom edges of the wings are scalloped and rimmed with a very thin white line. The Modest Sphinx resembles its close relative, the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth. In fact, at one point in history, this species shared the same common name which created some confusion.
Females lay fertilized eggs on the leaves of host trees. The Modest Sphinx caterpillar feeds on the leaves of cottonwood trees as well as poplar, aspen, and willow. Because these host trees are prevalent across the continent, the Modest Sphinx is found in every country of North America. The fleshy, green caterpillar is covered with tiny white dots. The pink-purple face is flat, not round like other caterpillars, and is teardrop-shaped. Three to six yellow diagonal lines mark the sides of the body. A long white diagonal line reaches up to connect to a short white horn that projects from the rear. It pupates and overwinters, emerging as an adult in late spring. Adults are active all summer into autumn. They are found in elevated, forested areas, as well as areas near water like creeks, streams, and river banks.
Scientific Name: Pachysphinx modesta
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 76mm to 120mm (2.96in to 4.68in)
Colors: gray, black, brown, white
Descriptors: white mark, dash, caret, blush, huge, hairy, furry, flying
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.