Details of the Sphinx Hummingbird Moth

A Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, also known as the White-Lined Sphinx lives in Central and North America, and is unique for its flying pattern and large size.

Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Species Summary

Scientific NameHyles lineata
Family NameSphingidae
HabitatGardens, meadows, desserts, and vacant lots
RangeCentral and North America
Host PlantsApples, grapes, tomatoes, and willow weed
Butterfly DescriptionA large, hairy moth with white-lined brown forewings and black hindwings
Caterpillar DescriptionThey have a horn and various color patterns but the most common is green with black, yellow, and white markings

Moth Physical Description

Sphinx Hummingbird Moths’ are large and hairy with 2.4 to 3.5 inch (6.3 to 9 cm) long wingspans.

Their forewings are triangular and narrow. The forewings are dark brown with a thick white-cream streak along the veins. The streak coloring is white at the anal angle and cream at the apex. The wide streak has six protruding thin white stripes.

The hindwings are short and black, with a thick reddish-pink band in the middle.

The adult moth has a brown head and thorax with white streaks.

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The abdomen is brown with black and white markings and a white line in the middle.

Adult female moths have cylindrical and rounder abdomens. Male moths have narrow and triangular abdomens.

Larva Physical Description

White-Lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars have a wide range of colors that include:

  • Green with white, black, and yellow lengthwise markings. Green (dark or lime) is the most common coloration.
  • Black with orange markings.
  • Yellow or cream with black markings.

The head, anal plate, and prothoracic shield have the same color, orange or green, with black dots.

Hyles lineata caterpillars have a horn which explains their name, hornworm. The horn can be orange or yellow with a black tip.

The larvae can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) long.

The caterpillars resemble tomato hornworms but are often large in number and more visible.

Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Larva
Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Larva

Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Lifespan

Life Cycle StageTypical Duration
Egg Stage6 to 8 days
Caterpillar Stage14 to 21 days
Chrysalis Stage14 to 21 days
Butterfly Stage4 to 10 days
Typical Duration of the Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Lifespan


Hyles lineata live in diverse open habitats, such as deserts, suburbs, gardens, vacant lots, meadows, and prairies.

Host Plants

The host plants for the white-lined sphinx moth include:

  • Willow weed
  • Four o’clock
  • Apple
  • Evening primrose
  • Elm
  • Gaura lindheimeri
  • Grape
  • Tomato
  • Purslane
  • Clarkia Elegans
  • Verbena
  • Fuchsia
  • Azalea
  • Beets
  • Buckwheat
  • Chickweed
  • Collards
  • Currant
  • Bitterdock
  • Pear
  • Turnip

How to Attract Sphinx Hummingbird Moths?

Plant the Sphinx Hummingbird Moths’ favorite flowers, such as honeysuckle, lilac, and columbines.


The larval food plants are from the Rosaceae and Onagraceae families.

Adult moth’s nectar from deep-lobed flowers include:

  • Columbines
  • Honeysuckle
  • Jimson weed
  • Lilac
  • Petunia
  • Moonvine
  • Thistles
  • Bouncing bet
  • Larkspurs
  • Clovers

Nocturnal adults’ food source is white or pale flowers, while diurnal moths prefer bright-colored flowers. Like other hawk moths, they rely on visual perception to recognize flowers. This explains the color choices for the nocturnal and diurnal moths.


The White-Lined Sphinx Moth is most active at dusk and dawn, but it’s not uncommon to see them during the day. The Sphinx Moths’ eyes have three spectral receptors sensitive to blue, green, and ultraviolet light.

Hummingbird moths’ flight patterns are similar to that of hummingbirds. The pattern involves flapping wings rapidly to hover in the air. They cannot hover in the air without rapidly beating their wings because they have large bodies with small wing surfaces.

Hornworm larvae can eat whole plants, which causes them to migrate across roadways in search of food plants. The larvae dig in loose soil to create a 1-4 inches chamber for pupation. The larva can stay in the chamber for 2-4 weeks. The resulting pupae are at least 2 inches long and are brown in color.

These Sphinx Moths have a long proboscis which they use to nectar. The tongue varies in length, moths with shorter proboscis are pollinators because they burry in flowers, so they are often covered in pollen which allows pollination.

They can appear in mid-May, late August, or early September.

Why Are They Called Sphinx Hummingbird Moths?

‘Sphinx’ is from how the caterpillars look when resting on a branch. They resemble the face of an Egyptian sphinx. The ‘hummingbird’ part of their name comes from how they feed on nectar, hovering in mid-air, similar to how hummingbirds do it.


The common predators for these hummingbird moths are bats, tachinid flies, wasps, and large mantids.

Bats and large mantids prey on adult moths. Tachinid flies and braconid and ichneumon wasps prey on caterpillars.

Are Sphinx Hummingbird Moths Poisonous?

No, these moths are not poisonous. Although the caterpillars have a horn that is thought to be a defense mechanism, it isn’t poisonous.


Sphinx Hummingbird Moths are one of the common moths of North America but are also found in other parts that include Central America and as far south as Peru. Their population on the edges of their common geographic ranges changes depending on the climate on a year-by-year basis.

Do Sphinx Hummingbird Moths Migrate?

Sphinx Hummingbird Moths do migrate to find new habitats when there is a change in the climate. In fall and winter, they retreat to warmer climates.

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