Sphinx pinastri
Linnaeus, 1758

Sphinx pinastri courtesy of Paolo Mazzei.

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Sphingini, Latreille, 1802
Genus: Sphinx Linnaeus, 1758 ...........
Species: pinastri Linnaeus, 1758


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The Pine hawkmoth, Sphinx pinastri (Wing span: 2 3/4 - 3 1/2 inches (7 - 9 cm)), flies in conifer forests in Europe and was introduced into the U.S. as an exotic. The moth was last seen in the U.S. in Pennsylvania, but probably has since disappeared in North America.

The uppersides of the forewings are gray with a gray-brown overlay. There are black dashes near the center of the wing, and dark brown at the base of the inner margin. The upperside of the hindwing is gray-brown with pale gray along the costal margin. The hindwing is darker than the forewing. Tony Pittaway gives the following range description:

"Europe (except Iberia, Ireland, northern Scandinavia and Arctic Russia), western Siberia (Eversmann, 1844; Zolotarenko, Petrova & Shiryaev, 1978), the Caucasus (Derzhavets, 1979b; Abdurahmanov, 1999) to southern Turkey (Daniel, 1932; Daniel, 1939; Kernbach, 1958), Lebanon (Zerny, 1933; Ellison & Wiltshire, 1939) and northern Israel (Müller et al., 2005b); Kurgan and Gorky (Kulebyaki) appear to be the eastern-most distribution of S. pinastri in Siberia, but recorded as far north as Pechora in european Russia (Tatarinov, Sedykh & Dolgin, 2003). In western Europe it is found east and north of central France (Pittaway, 1983). There are some local populations in central-southern France showing small differences in genitalia which were separated into individual subspecies by Jordan (1931), but this is unwarranted. Also found on Corsica (Bretherton & de Worms, 1963), in northern and central Greece, and in the northern Aegean on Thassos (Koutsaftikis, 1970).

"Drury (1837) described this species as being a very rare vagrant to Britain. With the extensive cultivation of pine plantations over the last 100 years, it has become well established and has spread over most of southern England where pine trees occur. A good account of its early status in England is given by South (1907).

"The situation in France appears to have changed over the last 20 years, with this species having been displaced by S. maurorum from many southern areas. True S. pinastri can now only be found north of Chateauroux, in the Alps and Var. Populations around Toulon are clearly intermediate hybrids (J. Haxaire & J.-M. Bompar, pers. com.).

"Extra-limital range. None.

"S. pinastri has been recorded from certain parts of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and specimens have been found in the eastern U.S.A. (Hodges, 1971). Whether the former are native or escapees is not known. It is possible that they are the last remnants of the original North American population of this species which went on to colonize the Palaearctic, but this, of course, is pure speculation."


Sphinx pinastri adults probably fly as a single brood from June-August. Adults rest on pine tree trunks during the day and are extremely well camouflaged.


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

Sphinx pinastri courtesy of Tony Pittaway.


Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen. Adults nectar at a variety of flowers, including honeysuckle. Both sexes come to lights.


Females lay eggs, shiny pale green at first, changing to reddish yellow, in groups of 2 or 3 along pine or spruce needles.

Incubation lasts 14--20 days, and, just before hatching, the dark head of the larva becomes visible through the now transparent shell.

Larvae feed on various species of conifers, including Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris); and spruce, including Norway spruce (Picea abies).

Females lay approximately 100 eggs.

There are both green and dark larval forms and larvae attain lengths of 75-80 mm.

In Europe, the caterpillars can sometimes be pests in coniferous forests.

Images courtesy of Paolo Mazzei.

The pupa is 35--40 mm long and very similar to that of S. ligustri and isusually formed under moss or the needle mat found at the base of trees.

Pupae may overwinter twice.

Sphinx pinastri fifth instar, Altmuenster, Austria, September 10, 1992, courtesy of Reinhart Roehrig

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