Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House

Moths of the Adirondack Mountains:
Modest Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta)

Moths of the Adirondack Mountains: Modest Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (9 June 2012) Moths of the Adirondack Mountains: Modest Sphinx n the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (9 June 2012)
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The Modest Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta) is a large moth that may be seen in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House in late spring and early summer. It is a member of the Sphingidae family. [1] This family includes about one thousand species of heavy-bodied moths with strong wings. [2] The species name of the Modest Sphinx (Modesta) derives from the fact that the bottom half of the moth, when seen facing up on a wall, is dark, as if covered in modesty by a shawl. [3] This moth is also known as the Big Poplar Sphinx -- a reference to one of its preferred host plants. [4] [5] This is a nocturnal moth which readily comes to light. [6]

The Modest Sphinx can be recognized by its large size and the scalloped outer margin of its long narrow fore wings. [7] The upper side of the fore wing is gray-brown with a dark median band. [8] The upper side of the hind wing is also gray-brown with a deep crimson patch. [9] [10] This moth has a wing span of 3 - 4 11/16 inches. [11]

Female Modest Sphinx moths extend a scent gland from their abdomen to lure the night-flying males. [12] The females lay their eggs of the leaves of host plants, which include poplar, aspen, cottonwood, and willow. [13] [14] The eggs, which are large and a translucent pale green in color, hatch is about nine days. [15] [16] The eggs later turn a shiny bronze in color. [17] The caterpillar is usually pale green. [18] Caterpillars pupate and spend the winter in shallow burrows in the ground. [19] [20] [21] Adults do not feed. [22]

The range of the Modest Sphinx covers much of North America, from Maine and the southern portions of all Canadian provinces south to northern Florida and west to Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, and Texas. [23] [24] [25] The flight period of the Modest Sphinx in the northeastern parts of North America is from late spring to early summer. [26] The flight period for this moth in the Adirondack Park has not been documented. Modest Sphinx moths were observed in Fulton County in early July 2011 and in Hamilton County in early July 2008. [27] In 2012, the Modest Sphinx was seen in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House in early June. [28]


Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.