Euproserpinus phaeton
Updated as per Hawkmoths of the World, Kitching and Cadiou, 2000, January 6, 2005
Updated as per The Hawk Moths of North America, James P. Tuttle, March 9, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Jennifer L. Bundy, (Yuma County, Arizona), March 9, 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Jennifer L. Bundy, (Los Angeles County, California), Aprill 27, 2009

Euproserpinus phaeton
you proh-ser-PYE-nusmmFAY-tuhn
Grote & Robinson, 1865
Phaeton Primrose Sphinx

Euproserpinus phaeton Mexico, courtesy of Manuel Balcazar-Lara.

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


Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris, 1839
Genus: Euproserpinus Grote & Robinson, 1865...........
Species: phaeton Grote & Robinson, 1865


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The Phaeton Primrose Sphinx, Euproserpinus phaeton, [wingspan: 1 1/4 - 1 5/8 inches (3.2 - 4.2 cm)], flies in California (specimen type locality) south to Baja California Sur and into Mexico (probably Sonora). It is also reported in southwestern Arizona.

James P. Tuttle indicates the populations from Nevada, previously assocatiated with E. phaeton, are more closely aligned with E. wiesti.

Euproserpins phaeton mojave, (Comstock, 1938), California, is same as Euproserpinus phaeton, according to Kitching and Cadiou (2000), but Tuttle (2007) retains the subspecies distinction. He indicates the more westerly populations (nominate phaeton) are smaller, with wider black hindwing bands and prominent back scaling of veins on ventral surface. The more easterly, desert moths (subspecies mojave) come from drier areas, are larger, with narrower black hindwing bands, and they lack the prominent black scaling on veins.

Jennifer L. Bundy sends these beautiful images of a freshly eclosed moths from Yuma County, Arizona. She writes, "I found a small locality of Euproserpinus phaeton larvae in Yuma, Arizona, March 2008. I was able to successfully get the species to pupate and eclose to adult. The adults show some real interesting maculation near to the mojave ssp. but abdomen like E. wiesti. The moths are a little bigger too."

Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" male, Yuma, Arizona,
December 24, 2008, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" female, Yuma, Arizona,
January 2, 2009, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

The species/subspecies are quite variable, but characters described above "hold up" when large series are inspected.

The upperside of the forewing is gray with dark gray-brown at the outer margin and base. The median portion of wing may be dark or pale and has only a few dark gray lines. The upperside of the hindwing is white with a sharp black outer margin.

Euproserpinus phaeton San Benito County, California, Pinnacles National Monument, March 18, 2004, Paul Johnson; NPS photo

Macroglossa erato, Boisduval, 1868, California, is the same as Euproserpinus phaeton.
mojave, Comstock, 1938, California, is the same as Euproserpinus phaeton.

Euproserpinus phaeton, Plum Canyon, ABDSP, 3 March 2005,
courtesy of Lynn & Gene Monroe, Granite Ridge Nature Institute.

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.

I do not know the origin of "Euproserpinus", but the species name "phaeton" comes from the son of Helios and Clymene. Phaeton wanted to drive his father's chariot, pulling the sun across the sky. He could not steer it properly and was killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus before Phaeton could scorch the earth.


Euproserpinus phaeton adults fly swiftly and close to the ground over dry washes and flat areas in deserts as a single brood from February-April. Adults nectar at flowers during the warm parts of the day.


Pupation is sometimes at ground surface level or pupae may wiggle to the surface from subterranean chambers with moths eclosing when exposed to and warmed by sunlight.

Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" female, Yuma, Arizona,
December 9, 2008, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" female, Yuma, Arizona,
December 9, 2008, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.


Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen.


Females deposit eggs singly or in pairs on the underside of host leaves. Larvae feed on various plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae).

Jennifer L. Bundy writes, "Ken Osborne assisted me with the pupation storage process by sharing info on a method he uses to successfully bury the pupae underground to avoid desiccation or death by pathogens. The Yuma, AZ, E. phaeton habitat consists of silty sand and extreme temps beginning in the Summer and extending into Fall. Here in Yuma, the larva burrows underground and pupates, so I would need to mimic an environment parallel to the pupa's natural state during pupation.

"Utilizing Osborne's method, I was able to dig a hole in the backyard and bury the pupae, leaving them underground in their usual silty sand environment until next season. My plan was to dig up the pupae in Mid-December, but with the heavy rains we received late November, I decided to dig them up early and check-up on pupal development. It was a good hunch, because all were pre-eclosion.

"Concerned about desiccation and understanding the need for humidity to trigger eclosion, I buried the pupae again. This time the set-up was in a large plant pot, using my backyard sand, and leaving the plant pot out in the sun. I placed a cage over the top to keep the moth from darting off. I checked that pot every morning, spritzing with a little water each day, and would finally find my first adult above ground basking in the sun nine days later. Rearing the larvae and getting the larvae to pupate was one accomplishment, but I don't think the pupae would have made it to eclosion without Ken Osborne's storage method."

Euproserpinus phaeton still inflating or waiting for wings to "set",
courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

Visit Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" larvae and pupae, Yuma, Arizona, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

Visit Euproserpinus phaeton "mojave" or nominate phaeton or euterpe larvae (all instars), Los Angeles County, California, courtesy of Jennifer L. Bundy.

Jennifer writes, "First weekend of April, I hit the road in search of Euproserpinus phaeton mojave (either adult, caterpillar, or ova). My trip would end as far north as Los Angeles County. In one region of L.A. county, I sampled from 5 different localities (roadside, washes, hillside) and looking under every Oenothera (Primrose) leaf I could for ova. The problem is that Euproserpinus and Hyles ova are almost identical and both moths post ova under the leaf. With each tiny green egg I found, my only option was to take it home and wait to see what emerges.

"I brought the ova home and set them up in cups labeled with locality markers. Of the estimate 150 ova from L.A. County, 149 were Hyles and only one would turn out to be Euproserpinus.

"Being that the ovum is from L.A. County, and based on prior research, the species would have to be mojave, or nominate, and not euterpe. However, this caterpillar is rather colorful. Comparing my photos of this cat with Paul Johnson’s photos at Bill Oehlke’s site, it looks like euterpe. For those familiar with seeing phaeton and euterpe caterpillars in the field, please have a look at my shots and tell me what you think. Regardless of what species, I was sad to see the conditions of the habitat - there was trash piles everywhere and it's also a semi-motocross track."

I think Jennifer's images from Los Angeles County, California, are probably nominate phaeton, or just a normal variation in colour. They could also be Euproserpinus euterpe, representing a slight extension of the published reports for this species.

Below are images of a larva and pupa courtesy of Lynn and Gene Monroe, Granite Ridge Nature Institute, Lyons, Colorado. This larva is from DiGiorgio Road, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California. The picture was taken on March 5, 2003. The larva is feeding on Oenothera deltoides and pupated on March 6.

Euproserpinus phaeton eating Dune Evening Primrose. Note the small "horn."
Borrego Springs, CA , 5 March 2003,
courtesy of Lynn & Gene Monroe, Granite Ridge Nature Institute.

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