Smerinthus cerisyi,<br>Cerisyi's Sphinx
Updated as per personal communication with Dave Gabon, March 23, 2008
Updated as per The Hawk Moths of North America, 2007, James P. Tuttle, March 2008

Smerinthus cerisyi
Kirby, 1837
One-eyed Sphinx or Cerisy's Sphinx

Smerinthus cerisyi by Jean Haxaire (Bill Oehlke pupa, Montague, P.E.I.)

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Smerinthini, Grote & Robinson, 1865
Genus: Smerinthus Latreille, 1802........
Species: cerisyi Kirby, 1837


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Smerinthus cerisyi, the One-eyed Sphinx or Cerisy's Sphinx, (wingspan approximately 95mm) closely resembles Smerinthus jamaicensis, and in northern regions the two species overlap. Smerinthus cerisyi is found in the southern regions of all Canadian provinces (all of B. C. and Alberta) and in northern border states south into northern Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio. The One-eyed Sphinx is also found along the U.S. west coast to southern California, eastward to the Rockies and into western New Mexico north to western North Dakota. Specimens have also been taken in Illinois and as far south as Missouri in central U.S.

This species has been taken in southeastern Alaska: Haines vicinity, Skagway, and in the Yukon.

Smerinthus cerisyi antennae typically rest alongside head and thorax and forewings generally conceal hindwings.

The image below (male), courtesy of Steve Danell, is from Stevens County in northeast Washington.

Tim Dyson sends this female (below) from Peterborough, Ontario, June 13, 2005.


Here on Prince Edward Island, Cerisy's Sphinx is one of the earliest Sphingidae (both male and female) to come in to lights, with most appearances occuring from early June to mid July from 10:00 - 11:30 pm. When we have an early spring, this moth can be taken as early as mid May.

David Gabon from Hollister, San Benito County, California, writes, "We have Smerinthus cerisyi emerging from under our weeping willow tree. My son found a freshly emerged male on Saturday 3/22. He then found found a pair mating this morning (3/23) in our backyard, and I later witnessed a female depositing eggs tonight on willow leaves. The Sphingidae page lists flying periods from May to July but it's still March so they emerge here in Hollister two months earlier than noted."

Mike Belcher of Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California, reports a sighting in his yard on April 13, 2008.

Visit Smerinthus cerisyi, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, May 25, 2009, courtesy of Ben and April.

Visit Smerinthus cerisyi, Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada, May 15, 2010, courtesy of John Tschopp.

Visit Smerinthus cerisyi male, Blind River area of northern Ontario, May 28, 2012, Ellen Parker.

Visit Smerinthus cerisyi larva, Port Kells/Clayton Heights, Surrey, August 20, 2012, Lisa Ingvallsen.

James P. Tuttle indicates he believes this species has only a single generation each year, although "the range of dates from farther south is broadly skewed."

Smerinthus cerisyi is probably the Island's most common Sphingidae and LIVESTOCK is readily available in the fall.


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

Reared stock, stored in refrigerator at 48 F from October until May, began eclosing nine days out of storage at 68 F.

Moths eclose after dark, usually around midnight.

On the other hand, Robert Jindra has seen some Sphingidae emerge in their subterranean chambers and then climb to the surface through their original tunnel. In June of 2012 Zana Goulding sent me a nice image of underside of a Smerinthus cerisyi male. Zana writes, "Hi Bill, found this one on the garage today, it was too high up for me to get any real good shots. It did appear to have some sort of eye and pinkish color on the underwing; maybe 1.5 inches long in the body."

Smerinthus cerisyi male (verso), Spokane, Spokane County, Washington,
June 24, 2012, courtesy of Zana Goulding


Females extend a scent gland from the posterior of the abdomen to lure in the night flying males. The male aligns himself at 180 degrees from the female so that their heads are in opposite directions during pairing, which continues until the following evening.

Females, with a body girth much greater than that of males, will mate the same night as they have eclosed.

Resting males arch the lower third of their abdomens upwards towards the thorax while females rest with the abdomen uncurled.

Smerinthus cerisyi, female, Peterborough, Ontario, June 13, 2005, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Both sexes rest with wings parallel to the plain of the resting surface. Note the filiform antennae and "turkey baster" abdomen of the female, above.


Females have a relatively short tongue length of 5 mm and readily deposit all their eggs (100+) on the insides of brown paper grocery bags or sandwich bags within 5 or 6 days without any feeding.

Spherical, pale green eggs are difficult to distinguish from other Sphingidae eggs.

Eggs, which are usually deposited singly or in pairs, incubate for six to eight days at 70 F and tiny larvae readily accept various species of willow and poplar.

One-two day old Smerinthus cerisyi courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Larval growth is rapid (3-4 weeks) on either willow or poplar and this species readily pupates under artificial conditions, i.e., dark enclosure, bottom filled with loose tissue or paper towelling. Pupation usually occurs within 4 to 5 days.

Scans by Bill Oehlke

Cerisyi larvae greatly resemble modesta larvae, both being pale green, with granular skin, pale lateral diagonal lines, faint red spiracular circles, and very pale longitudinal lines running from the head to a more pronounced anal diagonal line.

Modesta have a distinct pink head while cerisyi have green heads bounded dorsally with a pale yellow inverted "V".

Visit Smerinthus cerisyi larva and adult moth, Door County, Wisconsin, courtesy of Janice Stiefel.

Larvae of both species are extremely strong and usually thrash about when disturbed. The anal horn of the mature cerisyi is pink with a blue dorsal base. Sometimes the horn is blue.

Smerinthus cerisyi, Newark, Alameda County, California,
courtesy of Manyee Desandies.

Smerinthus cerisyi fifth instar, East Kootenays, British Columbia, Canada, August 1, 2009, courtesy of Daryll.

Daryll writes, "Found in British Columbia, (east Kootenays), fell off the willow tree in a wind storm, about 3 inches long when totally outstretched and 1/2 inch wide, very strong."

View a beautiful series of four images of a Smerinthus cerisyi larva (fifth instar), View Royal, British Columbia, Canada, August 1, 2010, courtesy of Lauren, David and Rick Van Acken.


Gravid females are readily taken at lights and will oviposit (without feeding) on the insides of brown paper sandwich bags. Reared stock also mates readily in captivity in screen or hardware cloth cages so obtaining eggs is relatively easy. Wild males also readily respond to calling, caged females. I move gravid females to a fresh paper bag each evening.

After allowing the eggs a day or two to harden, I gently remove them with my thumbnail to 414 ml (about 1/2 quart or 1/2 liter) ziploc plastic tubs. I use a different tub for each evening's eggs and record date on tub. I put no moisture in with the eggs and snap the lids shut. Larvae usually emerge in the morning 6-8 days after deposition. The eggs can be left affixed to cut outs of brown paper bag. No food is put in tubs until after larvae have begun emerging. (Good idea not to have unhatched eggs in container when inserting food).

A few poplar or willow leaves left affixed to twig are placed in with emerged larvae. After two or three days of feeding, larvae are moved outdoors to sleeved willow or poplar branches. I typically use six-foot-long, frass-slotted Remay sleeves for cerisyi (25 larvae/sleeve).

Frass slot is located at lower end of sleeve and fastened shut with a clothespin. The open end of the sleeve is tied shut with some cotton string after I have placed the tiny larvae, still clinging to indoor feeding twig, inside the sleeve. The twig is gently rested on upper foliage inside sleeve. Frass is removed as needed by unclipping clothespin.

Instead of doing all the extra work of moving eggs, now (2005) I cut a hole in the bottom of the brown paper (egg) bag and thread a live poplar branch through the bag and out the hole (a day or so before eggs hatch) and let the larvae crawl onto the foliage themselves. This all takes place inside a remay sleeve over a poplar branch.

When larvae are nearly full grown or begin to leave foliage (3-4 weeks) and crawl around on sleeve, I bring them indoors and put them in 2-5 gallon clear plastic tubs with cut food. These larvae have strong mandibles and desire to leave host to pupate underground is so strong, that they will actually chew holes through Remay cloth if not removed.

When larvae leave food in plastic tubs, I gently lift larvae and place them in lidded buckets that have three or four layers of paper towels on the bottom. Buckets are placed in warm, dark spots, and pupation occurs in 4-5 days under paper towelling.

Tim Dyson (pupa image to right) uses a medium of leaf litter for pupation. Various mixtures of peat, sand, soil, litter are also fine.

After pupae have hardened for several days, I place them side by side on top of a few sheets of folded paper towels in same ziploc containers I used for eggs. Here on P.E.I. cerisyi seem to have only a single generation. Pupae are stored at room temperature in lidded containers until they go in fridge in October for winter storage. One or two drips/drops of water in the container at time of entry to fridge is all the care that is needed over the winter. I have a separate mini-fridge that I use for Sphingidae pupa storage and keep temperature there around 40-45.

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