Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFSphingidae Members: 30 NC Records

Sphinx kalmiae J.E. Smith, 1797 - Laurel Sphinx


Taxonomy
Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SphingidaeSubfamily: SphinginaeTribe: SphinginiP3 Number: 890118.00 MONA Number: 7809.00
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.
Species Status: Barcodes indicate that Sphinx kalmiae is a single, well-defined species in our area.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: BugGuide, MPG, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Hodges (1971); Tuttle (2007)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1948); Wagner (2005); Tuttle (2007)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This beautiful yellow-brown sphinx is easy to identify and one of our more common species in this genus. This looks like a smaller version of S. frankii but the abdominal spots are white and the moth is more tailored in appearance. Similar to Xylophanes tersa in size and wing color but has a darker brown marks on the thorax and abdomen. Other brown-colored sphingids are duller brown or have a heavier pattern of streaks. Sexes are similar.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae have the usual pattern of seven oblique lateral stripes on a green background, but are distinctive in their yellowish lateral stripes, edged with black; strong stripes on the sides of the head; and blue caudal horn covered with black spines (Wagner, 2005). Pupation occurs underground.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Relatively common in the Mountains but rare in the Coastal Plain; we have only a couple of recent records from the Piedmont.
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: Seems to have an early summer flight in the mountains but coastal plain records are later in the season, perhaps indicating two broods there.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Records from the Coastal Plain come from a rich, brownwater floodplain along the Roanoke River but also from a blackwater area at the Great Dismal Swamp State Park; several species of Ash are common at the first but the second site probably contains only the swamp species of Ash, i.e., Carolina and Pumpkin Ash, along with privet. Records in the Mountains come from riparan habitats, rich cove forests and other sites with rich soils (e.g., Mount Jefferson State Park). Habitats at some of the mountain sites are unknown, however, as are the habitats where kalmiae was historically collected in the Piedmont.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous. Originally thought to be associated with Kalmia -- hence the name. However, that was discounted by Forbes (1948); instead it appears to feed on various members of the Oleaceae, including Ash, Fringe-tree, Lilac, and Privet (Forbes, 1948; Wagner, 2005).
Observation Methods: Adults visit flowers at night and also are attracted to lights. Most of our records come from 15 watt UV blacklights, but only as single individuals; use of mercury-vapor or other high intensity UV lights is likely to be more effective, as it is for other members of this genus. Searching for larvae on small ash saplings may be profitable.
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for Ash Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S3S4]
State Protection: Not currently listed by the Natural Heritage Program but probably should be considered for addition to the Watch List, based mainly on degree of threat due to the Emerald Ash Borer.
Comments: This handsome species is always a treat to see. As with many Sphinx species, records are few and one can question whether or not we know how to locate the species outside the mountains. This species, along with other Ash-feeding Sphingids, is threatened to some extent by the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer (Wagner, 2007). However, its use of alternative host plants, including the highly invasive Privet, may allow it to survive, although we have seen no increase in numbers of this species where Privet has become one of the dominant plants of bottomland forests.

 Photo Gallery for Sphinx kalmiae - Laurel Sphinx

Photos: 18

Recorded by: Vin Stanton on 2019-06-08
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2018-08-19
Burke Co.
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Recorded by: j.wyche on 2017-06-15
Gates Co.
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Recorded by: Lori Owenby on 2016-06-29
Yancey Co.
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Recorded by: Lori Owenby on 2016-06-29
Yancey Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2016-06-28
Yancey Co.
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Recorded by: Parker Backstrom on 2015-09-08
Chatham Co.
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Recorded by: B. Bockhahn, P. Scharf, K. Kittelberger on 2015-06-18
Avery Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall and Ed Corey on 2015-05-16
Alleghany Co.
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Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2014-05-23
Cabarrus Co.
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Recorded by: A. Lasley, J. Costner on 2013-10-21
Burke Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2013-08-03
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Jackie Nelson / Doug Blatny on 2013-07-31
Ashe Co.
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Recorded by: Taylor Piephoff on 2012-06-30
Mecklenburg Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof, E. Corey on 2011-05-25
Burke Co.
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Recorded by: J. Anderson on 2010-06-17
Yancey Co.
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Recorded by: Nathan West on 0000-00-00
Cherokee Co.
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Recorded by: Nathan West on 0000-00-00
Cherokee Co.
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