Deidamia inscriptum

Deidamia inscriptum
(Harris, 1839) Pterogon? inscriptum
Lettered Sphinx

Deidamia inscriptum courtesy of James Reilly.

This site has been created by Bill Oehlke at
Comments, suggestions and/or additional information are welcomed by Bill.


Superfamily: Sphingoidea, Dyar, 1902
Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris
Genus: Deidamia, Clemens, 1859
Species: inscriptum, (Harris, 1839)


copyright C. Odenkirk
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The Lettered Sphinx Moth, Deidamia inscriptum (Wing span: 1 3/4 - 2 3/4 inches (4.5 - 7 cm)), flies from New Hampshire south to northern Florida and southern Alabama (Houston County (JS)); west to Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. The specimen type locality is Indiana. It also flies in southern Ontario and is occasionally seen in southern Quebec.

Deidamia inscriptum, Willshire, Van Wert County, Ohio,
May 12, 2012, courtesy of Greg Roehm.

Visit Deidamia inscriptum in copula, May 21, 2011, Ian Miller.

Visit Deidama inscriptum male, 1:45 am, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, May 19, 2011, Ian Miller.

Visit Deidamia inscriptum male, Vogel State Park, Union County, Georgia, April 9, 2009, courtesy of Aubrey Scott.

The moth's outer margin of the forewing is deeply scalloped.

The upperside is light brown with dark brown markings.

There is a small black and white spot near the tip.

The upperside of the hindwing is orange-brown with a dark brown outer margin and median line.

Males rest with the typical strong curve to the abdomen, depicted in John Himmelman image (Connecticut, May 1, 2002) right. This is usually one of the earliest Sphingids to fly each season.

Tim Dyson captured this fresh male with wings exposed in Peterborough, Ontario, on May 25, 2005.

Tim writes, "I had the bedsheet/light set up going the other night, and this little guy came along. First sphinx of the season for me."

With an adjustment to the shutter speed on his camera, Tim captured this one in flight. Nice to see the hindwings on a live specimen!


Deidamia inscriptum adults are on the wing as a single generation from February-May in Louisiana, and from March-June in the remainder of the range.

Lynda McGinnis reports a specimen coming to a blacklight on April 22, 2003 in Missouri, on a very cold night, temperature below 45 F.

Adults feed from flowers including lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and Phlox.

Deidamia inscriptum undersides, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Randy Lyttle reports a specimen at lights on April 16-17, 2009, in Clay, Onondaga County, New York.


Pupae wiggle to surface just prior to eclosion. Females call at night, and males fly into the wind to pick up and track the pheromone plume. The species is also active during the day.


Females lay translucent green eggs singly on leaves of the host plant. Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) all serve as larval hosts.

Mark Black sends the image to the right, June 18, 2006, of a larva on grape.

Id confirmed by Jim Tuttle.

Deidamia inscriptum third instar, March 30, 2008,
Bexar County, Texas, March 30, 2008, courtesy of Michael van Buskirk

Of the larva depicted above, Michael van Buskirk writes, "The D. inscriptum female was taken at light at on local gas station-convenience mart at about 9:30pm in northwest Bexar County, Texas, March 14, 2008. Ova were deposited March 14-16 and hatched March 22-24, 2008. The third instar photo was taken on March 30, 2008.

"I have about (65) D. inscriptum larvae feeding on my local Parthenocissus, and some of the larvae are going into 3rd instar at only 8 days old! When they fill out, I will photograph and send you some images, so that you will have 3rd & 4th larval instars for your website. While common, I am setting my sights for all of the local species I know are here, but have not found yet, except as adults--D. hyloeus, S. jamaicensis, A. juglandis, P. plebeja, D. choerilus, H. thysbe, C. undulosa, and E. vitis. Will also be going after some rare ones, too, but the locals are more easy to predict.

"As I said earlier, I think there may be some surprise species here as well, such as S. istar, E. lassauxii, and others."

Deidamia inscriptum fourth instar, Bexar County, Texas,
April 3, 2008, twelve days out of egg, courtesy of Michael van Buskirk

Deidamia inscriptum fourth instar, Bexar County, Texas,
April 3, 2008, twelve days out of egg, courtesy of Michael van Buskirk

Deidamia inscripta courtesy/copyright David Wagner.

Michael writes, "About (40) of the D. inscriptum larvae are pre-pupal as of tonight (April 10). There are about (60) total. They grew very quickly in 5th instar from the weekend, and seem about the right size. I have a copy of Caterpillars and Their Moths, by Ida M. Eliot and Caroline Gray Soule. Published in 1902, more than a century ago, it still has some of the best rearing data available for Sphingids."

Deidamia inscriptum larva courtesy of Mary Hallett, Beloit, Wisconsin.

Deidamia inscriptum larva courtesy of Mary Hallett, Beloit, Wisconsin.

I too have a copy of Caterpillars and Their Moths which Bonnie Caruthers obtained for me. The extremely rapid development of Sphingidae larvae, as documented in the book, surprised me. I think many of the Sphingidae caterpillars feed at night. Under natural conditions, cooler outdoor temperatures may reduce the caterpillars' metabolic rates. Indoors, where there is often a warmer nighttime temperature, the immatures tend to develop much more rapidly.

Michael's records indicate that larvae hatching on March 22 are near pupation on April 10.

Larval Food Plants

Listed below are primary food plant(s) and alternate food plants. It is hoped that this alphabetical listing followed by the common name of the foodplant will prove useful. The list is not exhaustive. Experimenting with closely related foodplants is worthwhile.

Oxydendrum arboreum.....
Parthenocissus JC

Virginia Creeper

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 literature, Deidamia was one of Lycomedes' daughters, and she bore a son, Neoptolemus, for Achilles.

The species name "inscriptum" MAY ? have been chosen for the parallel "lines" on the forewings, suggesting lines of script.

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