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Elm Sphinx (Ceratomia amyntor)

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

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Image Credit: Jordan C. from Saskatoon, SK
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Image Credit: Steve K., taken in southern OH
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Image Credit: Gerrie C. in Bergen County, NJ
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The large Elm Sphinx is a brown beauty that uses more than just elm trees as a host plant.

Updated: 09/06/2023; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Like many Sphinx moths, the Elm Sphinx has a large wingspan that can exceed 100 mm, or 4 inches. The hairy thorax has a black ring around it. The long, sturdy brown wings have a bar-shaped white spot near the outer edge. The center of each forewing is streaked in dark brown coloring. Thin lines of black, tan, ivory, and brown ripple along the bottom edges of the wings.

Host plants for the caterpillar include elm trees of course, but this species also feeds on cherry, basswood, and birch trees, too. The bright green larva has diagonal lines on its sides and is covered in tiny white granules. Two sets of branching horns near the head led to a secondary name for the caterpillar: Four-horned Sphinx. A horn near its rear end extends from the body and its true legs may be white and tipped in red. Up to two broods can be produced each year with the later one overwintering underground.

Look for flying adults from late spring through most of autumn, especially in the southern part of its range. They are often found in or near deciduous woodlands where host trees grow.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon
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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: amyntor

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ceratomia amyntor
Other Name(s): Four-horned Sphinx (caterpillar)
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 60mm (1.96" to 2.36")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white; green; black
Descriptors: white spot; dark patch; dark center; large; huge; flying; ring; furry thorax; four horns; red-tipped legs

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 50mm (2.0in) and 60mm (2.4in)
Lo: 50mm
Md: 55mm
Hi: 60mm

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 Elm 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 Elm Sphinx. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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