Darapsa versicolor, the Hydrangea Sphinx

Darapsa versicolor
(Harris, 1839) Choerocampa versicolor
Hydrangea Sphinx

Darapsa versicolor Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, courtesy of Joe Garris.

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris, 1839
Genus: Darapsa Walker, 1856
Species: versicolor (Harris, 1939)........


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Darapsa versicolor, the Hydrangea Sphinx, Wing span: 2 1/4 - 3 1/8 inches (5.8 - 8 cm), is found in Maine south to south Florida, west to Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, usually along stream banks where the water loving larval hosts can be found.

The forewing upperside is often greenish brown (photo to right) with curved dark lines and pinkish-white patches.

The hindwing upperside is pale yellow to reddish brown with white along the costal margin, greenish brown along the outer margin, and white shaded with greenish brown on the inner margin.

Paul Opler photo.

This sphingid is less common than many of its relatives.

The underside is also very attractive as evidenced in this image I scanned for Doug Malone from Tennessee.


Darapsa versicolor is single brooded throughout its range: from June-July in the north, March-September in Louisiana, and February-July in Florida.


Little is known about the eclosions of the earth pupators, but many believe pupae wiggle toward the surface just prior to emergence.


Darapsa versicolor females extend a scent gland from the posterior of the abdomen to lure in the night flying males. Both sexes nectar at flowers.

Darapsa versicolor courtesy of James Adams.


Darapsa versicolor larvae feed on Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and waterwillow (Decodon verticillatus).

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Females lay translucent yellow-green eggs in twos or threes on the underside of host leaves. Eggs hatch in approximately seven days, and the young caterpillars eat their egg shells. The developing larvae usually become visible inside the shells after three to four days.

Larval growth is rapid, and caterpillars reach the fifth instar in only slightly over two weeks.

Larvae turn a deep chocolate brown just prior to pupation, and the "horn" on the tail also turns downward as pupation draws near.

Darapsa versicolor courtesy/copyright David Wagner.

At pupation time, I pick up such Sphingidae larvae with my fingers and gently put them in a bucket, bottom-lined with several layers of loose, dry paper towels. The larvae will crawl under the towelling and pupate on the bottom of the bucket.

This method, a warm dark bucket lined with paper towelling, is sufficient to induce pupation in most of the earth pupators or those that pupate under litter at or near the surface.

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