Banded Sphinx

Top Photo: Banded sphinx moth caterpillar preparing to chew on wingleaf primrose-willow in wetlands.

Last September, I photographed a banded sphinx moth (Eumorpha fasciatus) caterpillar on an end-of-the-season wingleaf primrose-willow (Ludwigia decurrens) in the wetlands. There were only a hand-full of those plants in the wetlands at the time. This year, there are many.

Banded sphinx from last September.
Flower of wingleaf primrose-willow.
Banded sphinx caterpillar (8.19.23).

The larvae may be green-themed, red, black, or multi-colored. The genus name Eumorpha means “well formed” or “good shape” and the species name fasciatus refers to the stripes or bands on the moth and/or caterpillar.

Banded sphinx.
My hand for size comparison.

A tropical species, we here in North Carolina appear to be near the northern limit of this moth’s range, though strays may be found as far north as Michigan, North Dakota and Nova Scotia. A range map on the North American Moth Photographers Group website shows them occurring along the Mid-Atlantic coastal areas fairly often.

Most sightings of this species in North Carolina are associated with water, wet areas. The only plant we’ve observed banded sphinx munching on here at the museum is primrose-willow (Ludwigia). Primrose-willow grows near water. Search alongside or in wet meadows, swamps, streams, ponds and lakes. Or, come have a look from our new floating walkway in Explore the Wild.

2 responses to Banded Sphinx

  1. We should be thrilled to see caterpillars munching on our tree leaves, because caterpillars are the main staple food for baby birds. They’re soft and full of nutrition. According to, a single clutch of Carolina Chickadee chicks needs more than 9,000 caterpillars to stay alive until they can fly on their own. Everything is food for something. Insects eat plants, turn into caterpillars, and then are eaten by baby birds. So if we want baby birds, we need caterpillars — that mean planting native oaks, cherries and other “keystone plants” as described by author and Univ. of Delaware prof. Doug Tallamy in our yards and public places, Alien species support far fewer caterpillars and thus create food deserts for our birds. For instance, the ginkgo tree supports only 5 species of caterpillars. With our wild spaces nearly extinct, it’s up to us homeowners to make our yards into feasts for birds and insects — and that means replacing some or all of your yard (more food desert space) with native plants, giving up useless pine straw and letting your leaves stay on the ground to make good habitat for insects. Thank you for your blog, Greg.

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