Moths of North Dakota


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North Dakota State University

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Identification key to the Sphingidae of North Dakota

     Each page of this key contains a pair of statements in apposition, termed a key couplet, along with accompanying illustrations and links to other couplets.  By following the links (like the game of 20 questions), you will end up at the name and picture of your specimen.  Species names are then linked to individual species pages.  The key is constructed to allow working backwards, one can return to previous couplets in case of doubtful choices.  This key works best with pinned specimens in relatively good condition, however, since every couplet is illustrated and, with the easy facility of retracing your steps, even pictures or good sightings can be narrowed to at most a few species.         

    There are literature records of three species from North Dakota which are not included here:  Hemaris senta, H. gracilis, and Erinnyis domingonisHemaris senta is reported from central North Dakota (Smith, 1993).  The species' actual distribution is mostly west of the Rockies.  The North Dakota State Insect Reference Collection (NDSIRC) contains a long series of Hemaris from Morton county-- the source of the record, and, although these specimens show considerable variation they are all referable to H. diffinis and differ consistently from a Utah specimen of H. senta also in the collectionThe record of Hemaris senta in North Dakota is treated as erroneous.  Hemaris gracilis, a northeastern species, was reported as brought into the state in gardening materials (Fors, 1981).  Specimens so labeled are not in the NDSIRC, but an unlabeled specimen of  H. thysbe representing the darker summer generation which resembles H. gracilis, is in the collection.  The record of H. gracilis is considered questionable since there is no specimen, no picture, and no complete collection data with the original reference.  The record of Erinnyis domingonis is a straightforward misidentification-- the specimen, E. obscura, is in the North Dakota State Insect Reference Collection.  All other sphingids known to occur in North Dakota as well as species collected in surrounding states are included in this key.  The actual area of coverage is then North and South Dakota, eastern Montana and Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and also southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  Species not specifically recorded from North Dakota are marked with an asterisk (*).

    As a shortcut to identification, below are pictures of the nine most common sphingids occurring in North Dakota.

Begin key

Data for specimens pictured in key and species accounts


Waved sphinx   Vashti's sphinx   Twin-spotted sphinx   Big poplar sphinx

Achemon sphinx     Bumblebee clearwing     Hog sphinx     Spurge hawkmoth.     White-lined sphinx



Last updated: 09/11/03

Gerald M. Fauske
Research Specialist
202 Hultz Hall
Fargo, ND 58105

Published by the Department of Entomology 

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