Xylophanes tersa tersa
Updated as per http://www.pybio.org/SPHINGINAE.htm (Paraguay), October 2007
Updated as per More, Kitching and Cocucci's Hawkmoths of Argentina 2005, October, 2007
Updated as per personal communication with Ezequiel Nunez Bustos (Osununu Private Reserve, Misiones, Argentina, November 24, 2009); December 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Gregory Nielsen (Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia, April 5, 2011, 500m); April 21, 2011
Updated as per personal communication with Paul Hoekstra (Yucatan, Mexico, August 19, 2011); October 1, 2011
Updated as per personal communication with Ben Trott (Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico); February 25, April 21, 2012
Updated as per personal communication with Carlos Marzano (Villa Amancay, Cardoba, Argentina, February 2011); March 2012

Xylophanes tersa tersa
Tersa Sphinx Moth
(Linnaeus, 1771) Sphinx

Xylophanes tersa tersa courtesy of John H. Campbell

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: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Macroglossini, Harris, 1839
Genus: Xylophanes Hubner [1819] ...........
Species: tersa tersa Linnaeus, 1771


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The Tersa Sphinx Moth, Xylophanes tersa tersa, (wingspan: 2 3/8 - 3 1/8 inches (6 - 8 cm)), flies from Massachusetts south to south Florida; west to Nebraska, New Mexico, and southern Arizona; south through
Mexico: Quintana Roo (BT) and elsewhere;
Belize; Corozol, Cayo, Stann Creek, Toledo;
Guatemala: Izabal (JM);
the West Indies, and Central America to
Colombia: Meta (500m);
Bolivia: Santa Cruz: Ichilo, Buena Vista (750m); Parque Amboró, Río Saguayo; Florida, Pampa Grande; Sarah (450m); La Paz: Murillo; Río Zongo, (750m); Sud Yungas: Chulumani, (2000m);
Paraguay: Alto Paraguay, Boqueron, Presidente Hayes, Concepcion, Amambay, San Pedro, Canindeyu, Alto Parana, Cordillera, Central, Caaguazu, Paraguari, Guaira, Caazapa (probably Itapua (WO??));
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Cordoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, Misiones, Salta, San Luis, Sante Fe, Tucuman;
Brazil: probably throughout most of Brazil.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia, courtesy of Gregory Nielsen.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Itanhandu, Minas Gerais, Brazil, courtesy of Larry Valentine.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Osununu Private Reserve, Misiones, Argentina, November 24, 2009, courtesy of Ezequiel Nunuez Bustos.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Yucatan, Mexico, August 19, 2011, courtesy of Paul Hoekstra.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Villa Amancay, Cardoba, Argentina, February 2011, courtesy of Carlos Marzano.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, nectaring at bouncing bet, Hitaga Sand Ridge Prairie Preserve, September 9, 2011, Tom Jantscher.

An occasional stray makes its way into Canada.

They are common in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Marie-Galante, St-Martin, St- Bartholomew and throughout the Antilles.

Maryland is the specimen type locality.

I still have a good specimen in my boyhood collection from New Jersey from over 35 years ago.

The upperside of the forewing is pale brown with lavender-gray at the base and has dark brown lengthwise lines throughout. The upperside of the hindwing is dark brown with a band of whitish, wedge-shaped marks.

The f. tristis Closs, 1911, Bahamas, is same as Xylophanes tersa tersa.

Similar in general appearance to Xylophanes indistincta (from southeastern Brazil) but immediately distinguishable by the lack of basal black patches and pale dorsal lines on the abdomen. In the BMNH, there are several melanic specimens from the Galapagos Islands that have the uppersides of the wings and abdomen strongly suffused in black (cf. Xylophanes tersa chaconi). Abdomen with three darker dorsal lines, the areas between not contrasting with the general ground colour and not standing out as conspicuously paler (so similar to the pattern in Xylophanes crotonis [from Guatemala south through western South America to Bolivia]); abdomen without black basal patches; Pale yellow spots of hindwing upperside median band generally well developed, sharp, triangular and increasing is size towards the apex. In many (but not all) moths from Cuba and Jamaica, these spots are often strongly reduced, even vestigial, but individual specimens of similar appearance occur in most populations of Xylophanes tersa tersa. CATE

Xylophanes tersa head showing coiled proboscis, leg spines, etc.,
courtesy/copyright Stephanie Sanchez, Florida.

Visit Stephanie Sanchez's Xylophanes tersa for some beautiful images.

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.

Jean Marie Cadiou writes, "When I say "Xylophanes" in English I pronounce it something like "Zailophanees", with the emphasis on the "o". The French pronounce it differently, something like "Kzeelophaness" with no emphasis, and the Germans yet in a different way..."

In Greek myth, Phanes is the golden winged Primordial Being who was hatched from the shining Cosmic Egg that was the source of the universe. He personifies light emerging from chaos.

"Xylo" is the Greek word for wood.

The specimen type for the genus Xylophanes is Xylophanes anubus. Perhaps ? when Hubner examined that species, the yellow-orange and brown tones of the forewings suggested wings of wood.

The species name "tersa" is possibly from the Latin, meaning dry or parched land, and may refer to the dry-brown colouration of the forewings.


Xylophanes tersa tersa, adults fly as a single brood in the north from May-October. There are several broods in Florida and Louisiana from February-November. In Costa Rica the moth has been taken every month of the year. Tony and Pat James sent me a picture from Jamaica in July. Ezequiel Nunez Bustos confirms a November flight in Misiones Province, Argentina. Gregory Nielsen reports an April 5, 2011, flight in Meta, Colombia, at 500m.

There are probably multiple broods as long as weather/climate permits.


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

Michelle Rousselow and nephew Will Dooley send the image of a Xylophanes tersa larva below.

Michelle writes, "Good evening Mr. Oehlke,
"While doing some yard work today in Virginia Beach, VA, I came across this unusual creature. I started poking around the internet and ran across your information.
"I have an 8-year old nephew named Will from Minnesota who is fascinated with insects. We are both very curious about this animal and were hoping you might be of assistance. We believe it to be a Xylophanes tersa."

I reply, "Hi Michelle and Will,
"Thanks for thinking of me. You are correct! I request permission to post these beautiful pictures of the Xylophanes tersa larva to a Virginia Beach thumbnail checklist which I will create??
Here is a link to my Minnesota Sphingidae page that might be helpful to Will."

Xylophanes tersa, fifth instar, Virginia Beach, Virginia,
June 26, 2012, courtesy of Michelle Rousselow and nephew Will Dooley.

On July 24, Michelle writes,
"Hi Bill,
"Just thought you might to see the fruit of our labor! After numerous daily trips outside to collect the right type of plant, our little guy grew and grew in a bucket on the dining room table.
"He - for lack of the proper pronoun - started acting differently on July 4th. He stopped eating, and it was like he was licking himself all over. Then he gathered the remaining wilting plants that were in his bowl and made himself a small, domed "tent." After that, he created his cocoon over the next couple of days.
"To my delight, he hatched late last night after creating a cocoon on July 6th. We found the moth on a bedroom curtain today. The beautiful moth has been successfully relocated to my front porch so it can live out its life cycle. Thanks for aiding Will and me in our little project this summer!"

Xylophanes tersa, Virginia Beach, Virginia, July 24, 2012,
courtesy of Michelle Rousselow and nephew Will Dooley.

Development time from pupation to adult moth is approximately two to three weeks, based on Michelle' observations.

Female courtesy of Dan Janzen.


Adults begin feeding at sunset from flowers including honeysuckle (Lonicera), four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and Asystasia gangetica. Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen. Males come in to lights very readily, but females are seldom taken in that way.


The snake-like larva has a head and the three thoracic segments which may be retracted into abdominal segment 1, which is swollen and adorned with a pair of light-ringed eye-spots. I often get questions about these larvae due to their voracious appetites for garden penta species.

Larvae also feed on Borreria, Catalpa and Manettia spp. and Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra) and starclusters (Pentas species). They are also recorded on joe-pie weed and Hamelia patens.

Lawrence E. Gilbert reports larvae on Hedyotis nigricans (Rubiaceae) at the field station in Austin (Brackenridge Field Laboratory), Texas. Frank Wiseman reports them on Heimia salicifolia (Hachinal).

The pupa is tan with dark markings and is formed amongst surface debris.

There is also a green colour morph.

In Costa Rica larvae feed on Psychotria microdon and Psychotria nervosa of the Rubiaceae family and on Inga vera of the Fabaceae family.

Xylophanes tersa courtesy of Barb and Mel, Miami, Florida, February 2, 2004.

In the early instars, the string of lateral "eyespots" is often quite faint.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Visit Xylophanes tersa adults, eggs, third and fifth instars, courtesy of Sherry Gerald.

Visit Xylophanes tersa larvae, August 8, 2002, Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas, courtesy of Jill Burrows.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, Austin, Travis County, October 5, 2009, Jacque Austin.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, green and brown forms, Altamonte Springs, Seminole County, August 17, 2010, Carol S. Lefkov.

Visit Xylophanes tersa, green and brown forms, Grayson County, Texas, October 4, 2010, Paula Copeland.

Larvae are subject to parasitization by Microplitis marini of the Braconidae family.

Ben Trott has sent beautiful images of third and fourth instar larvae, below.

Xylophanes tersa early third instar, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico,
courtesy of Ben Trott.

Xylophanes tersa mature third instar, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico,
courtesy of Ben Trott.

Xylophanes tersa fourth instar, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico,
courtesy of Ben Trott.

Xylophanes tersa pupa, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico,
courtesy of Ben Trott.

Ben Trott writes, "Xylophanes tersa (x11), All larvae collected were parasited except for two. I think this is because the moth is very common, and larvae are easily preyed upon because of their preference for open spaces, where Borreria grows.

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