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Northern Apple Sphinx (Sphinx poecila)

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

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Image Credit: Allan P. from Pine Barrens, NJ
Full-sized image of the Northern-Apple-Sphinx-Moth Thumbnail image of the Northern-Apple-Sphinx-Moth
Image Credit: Peter S., taken at Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH
Full-sized image #2 of the Northern-Apple-Sphinx-Moth Thumbnail image #2 of the Northern-Apple-Sphinx-Moth

The large and sleek Northern Apple Sphinx can be found in more habitats than just orchards.

Updated: 01/12/2024; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Northern Apple Sphinx is a gray moth with short, thin black lines that run down the wings. The wings are narrow, sleek and pointed. A small white dot in the center of each narrow forewing is usually visible. Short black and white fringe runs along the bottom edges of the wings. This moth resembles the Apple Sphinx, a close relative.

The bright green caterpillar has a green head with black and green lines on it. The body is covered in small white dots and the sides have seven diagonal red and white lines pointing up toward the rear end. At the bottom of each diagonal line is a small, bright red oval. A horn, or pointed ?tail?, sticks out from the rear end. The caterpillar certainly feeds on apple trees, but it does not limit its host plant to that. Alder, blueberry, meadowsweet, sweet gale, tamarack, and white spruce are also acceptable food sources. With such diverse host plants, the moth can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, bogs, and areas with flowers that can provide nectar to adults.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Northern-Apple-Sphinx-Moth

apple tree leaves
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying 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: poecila

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphinx poecila
Other Name(s): Northern Heath Sphinx, Poecila Sphinx, Variegated Sphinx
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 65mm to 95mm (2.55" to 3.74")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray; black; white; brown
Descriptors: big; large; black head; gray wings; short black slits; pointed wings; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 65mm (2.6in) and 95mm (3.7in)
Lo: 65mm
Md: 80mm
Hi: 95mm

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