Paonias excaecata, the Blinded Sphinx

Paonias excaecata
(J. E. Smith, 1797) Sphinx

Paonias excaecata, Medford, Taylor County, Wisconsin,
June 19, 2008, courtesy of Joan Rickert.

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


Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Smerinthini, Grote & Robinson, 1865
Genus: Paonias Hubner, [1819]
Species: excaecata (J.E. Smith, 1797)


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Paonias excaecata, the Blinded Sphinx (wingspan 60-85 mm) is found in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and across the rest of Canada all the way to British Columbia.

In the U.S. it ranges due south of those provinces, all the way to Florida in the east, and extends it range westward to eastern California and as far south as central Texas.

As far as I know, it does not extend into Mexico.

The outer margin of the forewing is quite wavy. There is a dark cell spot and a dark oblique line mid wing from the costa almost to the inner margin. Basic ground colour is pinkish brown.

At rest the lower wings are almost completely hidden.

Males demonstrate a strong curve to the abdomen.

The moth gets its name from the blue-gray pupil surrounded by black, with hot pink wing scales in the basal area of the hindwing.

Image courtesy of John Himmelman, Connecticut, July 9, 2002.

Paonias excaecata male, courtesy of Hynek Habal copyright


On Prince Edward Island, Canada, Paonias excaecata flies from early June to late July. Double broods begin to occur from New Jersey southwards with triple broods in Missouri and as many as four broods in Louisiana where winter diapause stock begins flight in late March and subsequent broods follow at roughly 45 day intervals.

Harriette Dorkin reports a July 14, 2011, flight in Kirkland, King County, Washington.

Paonias excaecata, Peterborough, Ontario, July 6, 2005, courtesy of Tim Dyson. copyright


Little is known about the eclosions of the earth pupators. Many believe the moths wiggle their way to the surface from subterranean chambers just prior to eclosions.

The moths need to climb, hang and inflate their wings.

This ventral image, courtesy of Tim Dyson, Peterborough, Ontario, July 25, 2006, shows a male (verso) at rest with the hindwing lobes projecting above the forewing costa.

Here on Prince Edward Island, my reared Paonias excaecata pupae emerge right around midnight. I have observed the same eclosion time for Smerinthus cerisyi.


Males of the eye-spotted sphinxes rest with the posterior of the abdomen curved upwards. This species mates readily in small cages and females will call and mate shortly after inflating wings.


Females as well as males of this short-tongued (3.4 mm) species come in to lights and females readily deposit green, spheroid eggs (100+) in paper bags without feeding.

Excaecata eggs are slightly larger than poecilus and tend to be more toward a yellow-green. Incubation lasts approximately 8 days at room temperature.

These Blinded Sphinx eggs are from a female taken on June 3, 1999, in Montague, Prince Edward Island.

Paonias excaecata hatchling, Wolf Creek, Josephine County, Oregon,
August 2011, courtesy of Edna Woodward.

Paonias excaecata second instar, Wolf Creek, Josephine County, Oregon,
August 2011, courtesy of Edna Woodward.

Edna found a tiny larva on apple foliage in Wolf Creek, Josephine County, Oregon in 2008. She reared it through and obtained an adult moth in June of 2009. She remembered the characteristic long, rust-coloured anal horn with an offwhite interruption near its center, evident in the image above image from a female taken in July 29, 2011.

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have tried all three and my larvae progressed most rapidly and grew the largest on pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica). I have found large larvae, however, in the wild on oak and poplar.

The hornworm to the right (2.5 x life size, July 11, ex egg above) will grow another half inch and fatten considerably on many pin cherry leaves in the next 3-5 days before descending the branch to seek out a suitable pupation area.

Scan by Bill Oehlke

Paonias excaecata, Medford, Taylor County, Wisconsin,
found on cherry, August 2, 2008, courtesy of Joan F. Rickert.

Paonias excaecata fifth instar on scrub oak, September 24, 2008,
Walpole, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, courtesy/copyright Sam Jaffe.

Paonias excaecata larvae pupate readily in 4-5 days under artificial conditions, i.e., a dark enclosure with loose paper litter. I use a covered, five-gallon bucket loosely lined on the bottom with three to four sheets of paper towels. When larvae are about ready to pupate, i.e., they have left foliage to descend tree branches or stems, I gently put them in the buckets. I put as many as twenty larvae in a single pupation bucket.

Blinded sphinx pupae are smooth and shiny and a very dark chestnut colour, once they have hardened. Initially they are very soft and green. They should not be moved for a week or so to give the pupal shell time to harden.

Larvae develop very stumpy legs and a reduced body size as a result of clearing the intestinal tract just prior to pupation.

Visit Paonias excaecata, Bradford County, Florida, courtesy of Edith Smith.

Visit Paonias excaecata, Montgomery County, Texas, May 26, 2008, Tristyn Schreiber Underwood.

Visit Paonias excaecata adult, from larva found on apple, Oregon, June 29, 2009; wild female July 29, 2011, Wolf Creek, Josephine County, Oregon, courtesy of Edna Woodward.

Visit Paonias excaecata, MV light on small building on County Hwy R18, Boone County, Iowa, June 23, 2009, Thomas Jantscher.

Visit Paonias excaecata, Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, July 31, 2009, courtesy of Kerri Walonoski.

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