18 hawk moth types

18 Hawk Moth Types That Will Captivate Your Imagination

Hawk moths Sphingidae are a fascinating group of moths known for their impressive size, rapid flight, and their important roles in their ecosystems. With over 1,400 hawk moth types spread across the globe, these nocturnal insects exhibit a remarkable diversity in appearance, behavior, and habitat preferences. In this article, we delve into 16 distinct types of hawk moths, exploring their unique characteristics, and habitats.

Hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

The first hawk moth type on our list is the Hummingbird hawk moth. This species is named for its remarkable resemblance to hummingbirds while feeding on nectar from tube-shaped flowers using its long proboscis while hovering in the air, flapping its wings forcefully and fast. Unlike most types of hawk moth, this moth feeds during the day. The front wings of this hawk moth are mostly brown with black wavy lines, while hindwings are orange with a black edge. Its abdomen is broad with a fan-tail of setae at the end. The species lives in temperate regions of Eurasia. You can find it in gardens, parks, meadows, bushes, and woodland edges where its preferred food plants grow.

Hummingbird moth
Hummingbird moth

Privet hawk moth (Sphinx ligustri)

The Privet hawk moth is named after its preferred host plants, the privet shrub. It’s found throughout Europe, North Africa, and across temperate Asia to Japan. This is the biggest hawk moth in the UK with a wingspan of 9 – 12 cm. You can easily recognize this species due to its large size and distinct coloration. It has a black and pink striped abdomen and pale pink hindwings with two black bands. However, the back wings are not always visible. The brightness of the pink will fluctuate. Its forewings are pale pinkish-grey with darker zigzag markings and a white streak near the outer edge.

Elephant hawk-moth

There are 2 types of Elephant hawk-moth: the small and the large one. These 2 species are usually mistaken with each other.

The Large elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor) comes with golden-olive color with brilliant pink lines on the wings and body. The combination of these colors makes it looks like a trunk of an elephant; that’s why it’s named so. The species can make itself appear larger and emphasize its eyespots to protect itself from predators.

Large elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor)
The large elephant hawk moth

The small elephant hawk moth (Deilephila porcellus) is smaller and yellower than the large one. It has a size of about 5 – 7 cm. Its forewings are greenish-grey with pinkish bands and darker markings. The hindwings are pink with a black border. These moths are found throughout most of Europe and parts of North Africa and Asia.

Lime hawk moth (Mimas tiliae)

The Lime hawk moth is a striking and easily recognizable species due to its distinctive thoracic tuft, which is thought to provide camouflage by resembling a broken twig when the moth is at rest. It has front wings that are pale green with darker green marbled patterns and a pale diagonal streak and pale yellow hindwings.

These hawk moths live in Europe, parts of North Africa, and across temperate Asia. They are moderate fliers and generally do not migrate long distances. Their green-yellow caterpillars mostly feed lime trees as well as elms and other broadleaf trees.

Five-spotted hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata)

You can easily recognize this 5 spotted hawk moth by its colors. There are about 5 to 6 pairs of yellow bands on its abdomen. Its hindwing is brown and white banded while the forewing is a hazy brown and gray with darker streaks and markings. This insect is one of the largest hawk moths in North America with a wingspan of 90-120 mm. Its caterpillars are green or reddish-brown with white oblique stripes and a curved horn. The moths are found across most of the United States and parts of southern Canada, more common in the eastern and central regions.

Five-spotted hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata)
5 spotted moth

Pine hawk moth (Sphinx pinastri)

This hawk moth comes with grayish-brown forewings and grayish-pink hindwings. You can see the darker zigzag markings and a darker outer band on the front and back wings, respectively. The distinctive thoracic tuft and grayish-brown coloration help camouflage the moth when resting on tree trunks or branches. 

They are found throughout Europe, parts of North Africa, and across temperate Asia. These species are not good fliers and generally do not migrate long distances.

Eyed hawk moth (Smerinthus ocellatus)

The Eyed hawk moth is a striking species of hawk moth found across Europe and Asia. It’s a large and robust moth with a wingspan of 60-90 mm. Its forewings are mottled brown with darker zigzag markings while the hindwings are reddish-pink with a large black eyespot on each wing, giving the species its name. The eyespots have concentric blue and black rings, resembling eyes. However, you cannot see the eyespots on its body when the hawk moth is resting because the forewings conceal them. Those spots will appear when the moth is threatened and may frighten a prospective predator. This will allow the moth to flee.

Eyed hawk moth (Smerinthus ocellatus)
Eyed moth

Spurge hawk moth (Hyles euphorbiae) 

The Spurge hawk moth has distinctive colorations, with its olive-green or brown forewings and pink hindwing. Its caterpillars are black with reddish-brown markings and a curved horn. These larvae prefer the host plant of spurge plants from the Euphorbia genus. These plants contain toxic compounds, but the moth caterpillars have developed the ability to sequester and store these toxins, making them unpalatable to many predators. 

Death’s head hawk moth (Acherontia species)

The Death’s head hawk moth is quite rare with the intimidating look. It has a giant size with a wingspan of 100-130 mm and a skull-like pattern on its abdomen. That’s why it’s called by the name “death’s head”. This pattern includes a vague outline of a nose, sunken eyes, and a rounded skullcap. When being disturbed, it can scream.

Death's head hawk moth (Acherontia species)
Death head moth

As the name, this Sphinx species is believed to be a sign of death. The death’s head is one of the largest hawk moth types in Europe. Its forewings are dark brown with intricate patterns and waved lines while its hindwings are yellow with two black bands. It lives in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, commonly in warm temperate and subtropical regions.

Convolvulus hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli)

The Convolvulus hawk-moth is a large hawk moth with a wingspan ranging from 90-130 mm. The species has a grey color, with grayish-brown in the front wings and a grayish-pink color in the back wings. It’s known as a remarkable species due to its widespread distribution, from Europe, Africa, Asia to North America.  This moth is a strong migrant, capable of traveling hundreds of miles, which has allowed it to colonize new regions.

Oleander hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii)

This type of hawk moth is also called the army green moth because it looks like military camouflage fatigues. Its wing colors are a mash-up of green hues ranging from mild to olive to dark green. The forewings are pale green with pinkish or purplish bands and dark zigzag markings and the hindwings are green with a broad pinkish band along the outer edge.

Oleander hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii)
Oleander moth

The abdomen has alternating green and white bands. Even its larvae is green with white and purplish stripes. This army green moth is native to the Mediterranean region, Africa, and Asia. But you can find these moth in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. They live in parks, gardens, and other urban areas where oleanders are cultivated

Poplar hawk moth (Laothoe populi)

The Poplar hawk moth has a relatively drab coloration, with pale brown or grayish front wings and pale reddish-brown hindwings. The thorax of this species has a distinctive tuft of scales giving it a crested appearance.

Poplar hawk moth (Laothoe populi)
Poplar moth

Its caterpillars are green with yellow oblique stripes. They mainly eat poplars, willows, and some fruit trees. They can occasionally be considered minor pests when present in large numbers on ornamental or cultivated poplar trees. These species can be found in North Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Modest sphynx moth (Pachysphinx modesta)

The Modest sphynx moth is the largest and most common hawk moth. It can be found from coast to coast in southern Canada or throughout most of the United States. You can see this moth at night, from June to July. During the day, it often sleeps or is inactive.  The species is a medium-sized moth with a wingspan ranging from 60-90 mm. Its forewings are grayish-brown with darker zigzag markings and a pale diagonal streak. The hindwings are orange-brown with a darker outer band.

Modest sphynx moth (Pachysphinx modesta)
Modest moth

Bed straw hawk moth (Deilephila galii)

The name of this species is derived from the preferred host plants of its caterpillars, which belong to the bedstraw genus. The Deilephila galii has a medium size of about 6 – 8 cm. Its front wings are pale brown or grayish with darker markings and a pinkish tinge towards the outer edge. On the other hand, its back wings are orange-pink with a black border. The caterpillars of this species are green with yellow stripes.

Bed straw hawk moth (Deilephila galii)

You can find this species throughout most of Europe, parts of North Africa, and temperate regions of Asia. It lives in meadows, grasslands, gardens, and areas, near nectar-rich flowers like honeysuckle and petunias. They are strong fliers and can migrate over long distances.

Striped hawk moth (Hyles livornica)

The Striped hawk moth is a widely distributed and adaptable species, found across several continents, southern Europe, North Africa to the Middle East, and as far east as China and Japan.

This striped-hawk-moth is not poisonous

Its distinctive striped abdomen and pinkish-red hindwings make it relatively easy to identify. The caterpillars are sometimes considered pests when they feed on cultivated crops, but the adults play an important role as pollinators. They are strong fliers and can migrate over long distances, allowing them to establish populations in various regions.

Bee hawk moth (Hemaris species) 

The Bee hawk moth is a genus of day-flying moth species that mimic the appearance and behavior of bees. This is an excellent example of Batesian mimicry, where a harmless species (the moth) evolves to resemble a more defended species (bees) to deter predators.

There are 2 types of bee hawk moths: board-bordered bee hawk moth and narrow-bordered bee hawk moth.

– Board-bordered bee hawk moth (Hemaris fuciformis) has a stout and furry body, resembling a bumblebee. This medium-sized moth has a wingspan of around 35-45 mm. Its forewings are transparent while the hindwings are orange-brown. Both wings have dark brown borders. When hovering, it closely mimics the appearance and buzzing sound of a bumblebee. You can find this species in Europe, parts of North Africa, and temperate regions of Asia.

Bee hawk moth (Hemaris species)
The narrow-bordered species| Source: Wikipedia

– Narrow-bordered bee hawk moth (Hemaris tityus) is bigger than its counterpart, with a wingspan of around 40-55 mm. It has mostly transparent front wings with reddish-brown borders and reddish-brown or orange-brown back wings. This bee hawk moth type closely mimics the appearance and flight pattern of a hummingbird. The moth lives in North America, from Canada to Florida and Mexico.

Pellucid hawk moth (Celerio lineata)

The Pellucid hawk moth is a striking species, with its partially transparent forewings and bright orange hindwings. Its name refers to the transparency of the forewings. Its abdomen is green or yellowish-green with white lateral stripes.

This moth lives in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It is well-adapted to arid and semi-desert environments, where its caterpillars can feed on various drought-resistant plants. The adult often flies and feeds during the twilight hours. Its strong flight abilities also allow it to migrate over moderate distances.

Pink spotted hawk moth (Agrius cingulata)

Last but not least – the Pink spotted hawk moth. It is a distinctive hawk moth species found in parts of Africa and Asia. You can easily recognize this moth thanks to its large size (about 100-140 mm) and the striking series of big pink spots along its abdomen. These spots are thought to serve as warning coloration, advertising the moth’s potential toxicity or unpalatability to predators.

Pink spotted hawk moth (Agrius cingulata)
Pink spotted moth

The front wings of this species are grayish-brown with darker zigzag markings and pinkish patches. Its hindwings are pale pink with darker bands near the edges.


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