Pachysphinx modesta et Antheraea polyphemus


In early June the above moth was seen in my driveway. It appeared to be dying, and I did eventually find it dead and decomposing. I wish that I had preserved it…her. Based on the shape of the abdomen it is a female. I moved the corpse on to a brick after she had died, and the wingspan was very nearly the width of the brick. She reminds me of Groucho Marx.

I later identified the moth from the above photograph. The upperside of the forewing is grey with the bottom third being lighter. It has a jadded edge. The hindwings are colorful, and the antennae are thin. I believe that it is a Pachysphinx modesta, or Modest sphinx. It can be found throughout the United States and Canada and is fairly common. It is usually found near rivers and streams. The caterpillars feed on Populus and Salix. What causes me to question the species is its size. The moth that I saw had to have been six or seven inches, but the Pachysphinx modesta is usually between three and five inches. Pachysphinx occidentalis, or Big Poplar sphinx, looks similar and is larger but is only found in the Western half of North America.

Last week another large moth was resting on a window pane. It is Antheraea polyphemus. Below is a photograph of the underside of its wings.



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