Sphinx gordius
Cramer, 1779
Apple Sphinx Moth

Sphinx gordius "should be poecila" courtesy of Natural Resources, Canada.

Sphinx gordius, Glades, Garrett County, Maryland,
courtesy/copyright John Glaser

Sphinx gordius, Ransom County, North Dakota,
July 18, 1993, courtesy of Gerald Fauskes.

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: gordius Cramer, [1780]


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The Apple Sphinx Moth, Sphinx gordius (Wing span: 2 11/16 - 4 1/4 inches (6.8 - 10.8 cm)), flies in coastal barrens, bogs, and deciduous forests from southeastern New York and New Jersey south to central Florida; west through southern Illinois, Colorado, and Utah; north through the Rocky Mountains to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Virginia is the specimen type locality.

I beleive that all of the images that I originally posted to this page, i.e., prior to revision of May 17, 2008, are probably those of Sphinx poecila.

S. gordius and S. poecila are quite similar, and at one time, Sphinx poecila was classified as a subspecies of S. gordius.

Based on a recent search for images after reading Jim Tuttle's excellent book, The Hawk Moths of North America, I have posted images from John Glaser, Maryland; Gerald Fauskes, North Dakota; and Jo Ann Poe-McGavin, Pennsylvania, that I believe are true S. gordius, based on Jim Tuttle's images and description.

I have left the original, incorrectly labelled images (now marked "should be poecila") on this page for comparison purposes.

Colouration and markings are highly variable from one specimen to another. The fringes on forewing are mostly black with some white; those on the hindwing are mostly white with a few black patches.

The upperside of the forewing ranges from brown with black borders through brownish gray with paler borders to pale gray with no borders. Dashes, submarginal line, and cell spot are usually weak.

The upperside of the hindwing is gray to yellow-gray with a black border and a black median line which ranges from distinct to diffuse.

Image courtesy of John Himmelman, June 28, 2002, Connecticut. "should be poecila" ??

Sphinx gordius, Jim Thorpe, Carbon County, Pennsylvania,
May 26, 2007, courtesy of Jo Ann Poe-McGavin.

It can be quite difficult to distinguish between Sphinx gordius and Sphinx poecila.

S. poecila is generally a more northerly species, but there are populations of both species in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, southern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

James P. Tuttle in his The Hawk Moths of North America writes, "The most reliable distinguishing character is on the outside of the postmedial band in the submarginal area of the dorsal forewing. In gordius this submarginal area is very dark, often black, and sharply contrasts with the grayish ground color of the rest of the forewing. Except for the occasional presence of a suffusion of dark scales at the anal angle, there is no such contrasting dark maculation in poecila; this submarginal area maintains the same ground color as the rest of the forewing."

Characters that also seem to be consistent to me are listed below:

1g) very dark forewing fringe along the outer margin in gordius
1p) more evenly checkered black and white fringe in poecila

2g) hindwing fringe with some black or darker colouration in gordius
2p) hindwing fringe that is almost all pure white in peocila

3g) distinct dark patch along the costa near the forewing apex in gordius
3p) more diffuse dark patch along the costa near the forewing apex in poecila
4g) a vestigial median band, meeting the inner margin closer to the pm line in gordius when compared to poecila
4p) a diffuse median band, meeting the inner margin about half way between the am and pm lines in poecila.


Sphinx gordius adults fly as a single brood from May-September in most of the range, from February-April in Florida.


Pupae probably wiggle to surface from subterranean chambers just prior to eclosion.


Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen. Adults nectar at deep-throated flowers including including dogbane (Apocynum), honeysuckle (Lonicera), lilac (Syringa), evening primrose (Onagraceae), bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis), and phlox (Phlox). Image to right "should be poecila".


Larval hosts are apple (Malus), sweetfern (Myrica), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), white spruce (Picea glauca), American larch (Larix laricina), and alder (Alnus).

Sphinx gordius "should be peocila" (Sept 1, 2003), heavily parasitized,
Musquodoboit Trail, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, courtesy of Patrick Turner.

Sphinx gordius courtesy/copyright David Wagner.

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