Amphion floridensis, the Nessus Sphinx

Amphion floridensis
The Nessus Sphinx
B. P. Clark, 1920

Amphion floridensis moth courtesy of Bill Oehlke.

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, [1802]
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Microglossina, Harris 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris, 1839
Genus: Amphion (Hubner, 1819)
Species: floridensis (B.P. Clark, 1920)...........


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Amphion floridensis, the stout bodied Nessus Sphinx (Wing span: 1 7/16 - 2 3/16 inches (3.7 - 5.5 cm)) is sparsely distributed (probably more common than reported) throughout the eastern 3/4 of the United States and Canada from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Maine south to southern Florida; west to Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas. It has been recorded in Mexico. In Canada it is also taken as far west as the prairie provinces but is rare in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The adult Nessus sphinx, which flies during the day and at dusk, has two bright yellow bands on the tufted abdomin. At rest, dark red-brown upperwings hide the red-orange median band and yellow spot of the hindwings; in some Amphion floridensis moths the median band may be very pale or almost absent.

The concave regions of the forewing outer margin also have pale yellow markings in the fringe area.

Image courtesy of John Himmelman, Connecticut, May 17, 2002.

Amphion floridensis, Florida, courtesy of Leroy Simon.

VisitAmphion floridensis, Orlando, Orange County, Florida, February 26, 2011, courtesy of Shaina Noggle.

Visit Amphion floridensis, March 27, 2010, courtesy Kelli Whitney, Park Naturalist II, Long Key Nature Center, Broward County Parks and Recreation

Visit Amphion floridensis, courtesy of Jean Haxaire, April 2006.

Visit Amphion floridensis, Onalaska, LaCrosse County, Wisconsin, May 2, 2012, Dan Jackson

Visit Amphion floridensis, Austin, Travis County, Texas, May 14, 2011, Deborah Wilson.

Visit Amphion floridensis, City Escape Gardening Center, Lake and Sacramento, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, May 30, 2010, Beth Ellen McNamara

Visit Amphion floridensis, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, May 2010, Emily Mirski.

Visit Amphion floridensis May 31, 2008, courtesy of Joan F. Rickert.

Visit Amphion floridensis, Londonderry, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, June 4, 2007, courtesy of Deb Lievens.

Visit Amphion floridensis, Harris Nature Center, Okemos, Ingham County, Michigan, June 10, 2009, Alan L. Jones.

Visit Amphion floridensis, Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, June 13, 2007, 8:44pm, John Van der Pryt.

Visit Amphion floridensis August 29, 2008, Broward County, Florida, courtesy of Kelli Whitney.

Amphion floridensis, Shaker Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio,
July 6, 2012, courtesy/copyright of Joe Applebaum, id by Bill Oehlke.

Many thanks to Dan Haas who sends this beautiful image of Amphion floridensis, feeding on white oak sap.

Amphion floridensis, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland,
feeding on white oak sap, July 19, 2012, courtesy of Dan Haas.

On May 31, 1999, after an exceptionally warm early May, I took a female Nessus sphinx nectaring (16 mm proboscis) on blackberry blossoms at 6:30 pm in Montague, Prince Edward Island. The female was at first placed in a brown paper grocery bag where she did not oviposit.

Then I fed her a 10% sugar/honey water solution and placed her in an enclosure consisting of one six gallon clear plastic tub inverted over another with a young Virginia creeper vine growing from a February cutting. I also placed a grape cutting (just in water) and some blackberry blossoms in the enclosure.

Daily I hand-fed the female a ten percent sugar-water solution with a bit of dissolved honey, and during the next five or six days she deposited approximately 85 eggs, predominantly on creeper but some on grape and even a few on blackberry foliage.

In the above scan, shiny traces of emerged eggs remain, and decay has already set in around a hole nibbled from leaf underside.

Eggs were always deposited on underside of foliage and larvae began emerging 8 days later under fairly constant 68-72 temperature.

Cuttings of creeper were taken and larvae were easily removed from old foliage with fingers. Larvae seemed content to eat wilted leaves rather than move to fresh food.

Rearing was done in several of the six gallon containers and growth was quite rapid.

To the right, fourth instar floridensis one month ex egg.

By July 12, larvae had entered final moult and colour change from yellow-green to light brown was rather striking. The larvae would feed voraciously at night and hide along the brown creeper stems by day.

From New York northward there is but a single brood from April til July. Double brooding (March-May and July-September) starts in coastal South Carolina, and there are as many as six broods in Florida and Louisiana from February-September.

Favorite nectar sources for the adults, which are frequently found in forest clearings, streamsides, and in the suburbs where larval hosts have been introduced, are lilac (Syringa vulgaris), herbrobert (Geranium robertianum), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), and Phlox.

My blackberry blossoms nourished floridensis as well as Hemaris thysbe and several butterfly species.

Planting any of the above in proximity to creeper or grape will afford this species a welcome habitat.

In additon to Virginia creeper larvae accept Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum).

In July of 2000 I found a larvae feeding on fireweed (Epilobium) with my indoor-reared Hyles gallii larvae. The larva evidently was introduced to the container from food gathered for the gallii. The floridensis larva progressed nicely to normal size.

On July 18, 1999, a few of the larvae left the foliage and became quite moist as they crawled along bottoms of the containers looking for soft earth in which to pupate.

Typically these larvae pupate in shallow underground chambers. I simply removed them to "pupation buckets", empty five gallon buckets with several layers of paper towels along the bottom. Buckets were kept covered, warm, and in a dark place and pupations began on July 22.Pupae are at first quite soft and light in colour and should not be handled for several days until shell has hardened and darker colour has prevailed. For overwintering, here in the north, pupae will be stored in a ziploc plastic tub in the refrigerator crisper.

Amphion floridensis, Florida, courtesy of Leroy Simon.

The pronunciation of scientific names is troublesome for many. The "suggestion" at the top of the page is merely a suggestion. It is based on commonly accepted English pronunciation of Greek names and/or some fairly well accepted "rules" for latinized scientific names.

The suggested pronunciations, on this page and on other pages, are primarily put forward to assist those who hear with internal ears as they read.

There are many collectors from different countries whose intonations and accents would be different.

Some of the early describers/namers chose genus and species names indicating some character of the insect, but more often, they simply chose names from Greek or Roman mythology or history.

Those species names which end in "ensis" indicate a specimen locale, and those which end in "i", pronounced "eye", honour a contempory friend/collector/etc.

In Greek myth, Amphion is the son of Zeus and the twin brother of Zethus, with whom he built a wall around Thebes by charming the stones into place with the music of his magical lyre.

The species name "floridensis" indicates the specimen type locality, Florida.

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