Sphinx drupiferarum, the Wild Cherry Sphinx

Sphinx drupiferarum
J. E. Smith, 1797
Wild Cherry Sphinx

Sphinx drupiferarum, June 29, 2005, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

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


Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Sphingini, Latreille, 1802
Genus: Sphinx Linnaeus, 1758
Species: drupiferarum J. E. Smith, 1797........


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Sphinx drupiferarum, the Wild Cherry Sphinx (Wingspan 75 - 115 mm; tongue length 52+-11 mm), is distributed throughout North America from southern Canada to northern Florida.

In the last five years on Prince Edward Island, I have only come across a few males at lights; I have yet to see a live female here. Subsequently I have taken females at lights in Montague, PEI, and in Malay Falls, Nova Scotia.

Sphinx drupiferarum, Peterborough, Ontario, June 8-9, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Forewings, long and slender, are held close to the body when the moth is at rest.

The forewing is dull slate grey with considerable light grey scaling in a broad band along the costa about 3/4 of distance from body toward the apex. Median lines are black and thin. There is a wavy, diffuse dark subterminal line, inwardly bordered by white, and a whitish bar in terminal area, paralleling outer margin.

Sphinx drupiferarum courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum


In Canada, Sphinx drupiferarum is single-brooded with most adults (wingspan 75-115 mm) on the wing in June and July. In New Jersey and states of that latitiude, drupiferarum is double-brooded.


Wild cherry Sphinx pupae either wiggle to the surface from subterranean chambers just prior to eclosion, or the fresh emergent moths climb from the underground chamber through the entry tunnel to the surface to inflate their wings.

Tim Dyson of Peterborough, Ontario, has doen a great job of photographing both dorsal and ventral surfaces of the many Sphingidae that fly in his area.

Sphinx drupiferarum on cherry, June 9, 2005, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Visit Sphinx drupiferarum adult moth and fifth instar larva, Wisconsin, courtesy of Janice Stiefel.

Visit Sphinx drupiferarum, Spokane, Spokane County, eastern Washington, June 12, 2010, courtesy of Erin Parker.


Sphinx drupiferarum females call in males with a pheromone released from a scent gland at the posterior tip of the abdomen.


Sphinx drupiferarum larvae hide in the day and feed primarily on cherry, plum, and apple at night.

Larvae have been found on Amelanchier nantuckensis in Massachusetts and have been reared to pupation in Michigan on Prunus serotina from eggs readily oviposited by a female.

Sphinx drupiferarum, Peterborough, Ontario, July 25, 2005, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Sphinx drupiferarum fifth instar, Gibraltar, Door County, Wisconsin,
August 4, 2002, Gibraltar, Door County, Wisconsin, courtesy of Janice Stiefel.

Many thanks to Zana Goulding who provides the following beautiful images of another Sphinx drupiferarum larva from Spokane County, Washington. Note the yellowish "leggings" on the abdominal feet and the absence of black spots at the apex of the head. In a very similar western species, Sphinx perelegans, the leggings are a purplish-lilac, and there are two black spots, often hidden by a thoracic shield, at the apex of the head.

Sphinx drupiferarum fifth instar, Spokane, Spokane County, Washington,
September 5, 2012, courtesy of Zana Goulding.

Sphinx drupiferarum fifth instar, Spokane, Spokane County, Washington,
September 5, 2012, courtesy of Zana Goulding.

At maturity, larvae leave the host plant and excavate subterranean chambers in which to pupate. A mixture of sand and soil and peat moss, etc., can be prepared for the larvae or they can more simply be placed in a plastic chamber with some loose paper towels. Larvae will crawl under the towels and pupate without soil.

Sphinx drupiferarum, pupae, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

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.

In ancient Greek mythology the Sphinx was a unique creature with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the head and breast of a woman. It was vicious and single-minded.

The Sphinx sat on a high rock by a road near Thebes and posed a riddle to all who wished to pass. The Sphinx strangled all who could not answer its riddle.

"The name "Sphinx" derives from the Greek word "sphingo," to strangle, or "sphingein," to bind tight, based on the Sphinx's habit of strangling its victims. The name was subsequently applied to the Egyptian and other arabic sphinxes because of their physical similarity to descriptions of the mythical Greek Sphinx."

Sphingidae larvae often strike a pose similar to that ascribed to the "Sphinx", so possibly that has to do with the choice of the genus name.

The species name "drupiferarum" is possibly from the Greek, 'drupifera' meaning bearing drupes, referring to plants with fleshy fruit, like cherries or plums, the larval hosts of this species.

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