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Laurel Sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae)

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

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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
Full-sized image of the Laurel-Sphinx-Moth Thumbnail image of the Laurel-Sphinx-Moth
Image Credit: C.M. and S.H. from Brooklyn, CT
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Image Credit: C.M. and S.H. from Brooklyn, CT
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Image Credit: C.M. and S.H. from Brooklyn, CT
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Image Credit: Kathleen P., taken in Schuyler Lake, NY
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The Laurel Sphinx is streamlined and sleek, always impressing with its wide wingspan and aerodynamic styling.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Laurel Sphinx Moths are quite big, easily filling up a gentle, open hand. The brown moth has black and brown stripes on its furry thorax. The abdomen is brown with a black line along the 'spine'. The sides have short bands of black and white from head to rear. The wings of the Laurel Sphinx come to a point, and its resting position takes the shape of an arrowhead. Light brown lines streak down the length of the forewings, creating the illusion of having bones in its wings. Shorter hindwings are black and white. Antennae are white. Laurel Sphinx Moths are widespread throughout the eastern part of the continent and are found in woodlands as well as backyards, gardens, and plant nurseries.

The caterpillar of the Laurel Sphinx Moth is fleshy and green. The green head has a black and white striped diagonal line running down both sides of its face. The true legs (by the head) are also black and white. Its fleshy prolegs (by the rear) are black and yellow. A vivid diagonal line on each segment is tri-colored: black-white-yellow. The rear end has a spiky blue horn covered in tiny black bumps. They tend to feed on foliage from ash trees, lilac shrubs, privet hedges, and olive and fringe trees. There are some reports that they are also fond of mountain laurel, but the moth's scientific name is actually derived from a Finnish botantist, Pehr Kalm, not that particular plant. His last name also happened to be similar to the laurel plant family's Latin name (Kalmia), so the moth's common name unintentionally reflected that more than the botanist. Adults drink from Japanese honeysuckle and common soapwort blossoms. Two broods can be produced each year.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sphingidae
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          Genus: Sphinx
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            Species: kalmiae

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphinx kalmiae
Other Name(s): Fawn Sphinx
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 75mm to 103mm (2.95" to 4.05")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black; white
Descriptors: streamlined; pointy wings; black-and-white-body; black spine; line; large; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 75mm (3.0in) and 103mm (4.1in)
Lo: 75mm
Md: 89mm
Hi: 103mm

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