Moths of North Carolina
Scientific Name:
Common Name:
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View PDFSphingidae Members:
Sphinx Members:
3 NC Records

Sphinx chersis (Hübner, 1823) - Great Ash Sphinx

Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SphingidaeSubfamily: SphinginaeTribe: SphinginiP3 Number: 890111.00 MONA Number: 7802.00
Comments: This large genus of some 27 species ranges from England to Japan and down through the Americas. There are approximately 14 resident species in North America and at least 5 in North Carolina. Two very different larval types occur in the genus and it is likely that Sphinx is composed of more than one genus.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Hodges (1971); Tuttle (2007)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1948); Wagner (2005); Tuttle (2007)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A large pale gray Sphinx moth with fine black streaks on the forewings and tegulae but no other conspicuous markings; hindwings and the sides of the abdomen are banded with pale and dark gray like other members of this genus. Unlikely to be confused with any other species in our area. Sexes are similar.
Wingspan: 9 - 13 cm (Covell, 1984)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are greenish or pinkish and have the seven pale oblique lateral stripes characteristic of Sphingids; see Wagner (2005) for details. Pupates underground.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: This is basically a northern species in the East, with only a few records from North Carolina.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Not enough data to be certain in North Carolina. Probably a spring and then summer brood.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: A woodland species found where Ash is common, usually in basic-mesic hardwood forests in the uplands and rich, alluvial bottomlands.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on Ash species but there apparently are larval records from privet and lilac. - View
Observation Methods: Adults visit flowers but not baits. Not enough data to know how well they come to lights; like other Sphingids, they may come relatively poorly to 15 watt UV lights but may be better sampled using high intensity UV lights, such as mercury-vapor.
See also Habitat Account for General Ash Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: [SR]
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4G5 S1
State Protection: Not currently listed by the Natural Heritage Program but probably should be considered for addition to the Rare Animal List, based on both rarity and degree of threat.
Comments: Until 2022, this species was only known in North Carolina from two specimens collected by David Wray in the 1960s. It was recently discovered at Sugar Mountain, and as an apparently freshly emerged adult, probably represents a resident population rather than a long-distance stray. This species is likely to be a habitat specialist, restricted to high elevation forests with rich soils. As an Ash specialist in particular, it likely to be highly threatened by the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, which has the potential to eliminate most of the Ash species in our state (see Wagner, 2007 for details about the magnitude of this threat).

 Photo Gallery for Sphinx chersis - Great Ash Sphinx

Photos: 3

Recorded by: Richard Teper on 2022-06-24
Avery Co.
Recorded by: D.L. Wray on 1966-07-22
Watauga Co.
Comment: Specimen in the NCSU Insect Museum. Wingspan = 10.5 cm; forewing length = 5.5 cm.
Recorded by: D.L. Wray on 1965-07-04
Watauga Co.
Comment: Specimen in the NCSU Insect Museum. Forewing length = 6.0 cm