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Catalpa Sphinx (Ceratomia catalpae)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Catalpa Sphinx

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Image Credit: Steve K. from California, MD
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Common in the American South, the Catalpa Sphinx Moth is a large brown beauty that prefers its namesake tree over others.

Updated: 09/08/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A catalpa tree is at home in the southeastern part of the U.S. and may be unfamiliar to those outside that region. The native species of this tree yield large leaves and long pods as fruit. They are often used as ornamental plants and have been planted as such well outside of their natural range, even as far north as Ontario. The Catalpa Sphinx Moth loves and lives for this tree. The brown moth is large with a small black ring on each wing. Dark lines cross the wings, but it may get overlooked as it is not as showy as other Sphinx Moths. The larvae of the Catalpa Sphinx are interesting to look at. A matte, black body has a black horn at the rear. Bright yellow sides are speckled with tiny black dots. They eat the leaves of the catalpa tree. In warmer parts of their range, three to five broods can be produced in a year. Adults likely do not eat and typically live within close range of this host plant. Learn to recognize the tree and increase the likelihood of spotting the moth.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sphingidae
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          Genus: Ceratomia
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            Species: catalpae

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ceratomia catalpae
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 42mm to 47mm (1.65" to 1.85")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; black; yellow
Descriptors: black horn; black caterpillar; yellow side; flying; small wing spot

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 42mm (1.7in) and 47mm (1.9in)
Lo: 42mm
Md: 44.5mm
Hi: 47mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Catalpa Sphinx may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Catalpa Sphinx. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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