With approximately 1050 species worldwide the Hawkmoths, or "Sphingids" to people in the trade are amongst the most charismatic of Lepidopterans. They are capable of rapid, long-distance and sometimes even migratory flight. Many species hover in front of flowers in the manner of a hummingbird.
Click subfamilial links below for access to the Image Galleries.
Click on the photo to enlarge it to full size.
Click on the species links to access the FAUNA Paraguay Handbook of Paraguayan Fauna Species Account.

Online Resources:
Sphingidae Taxonomic Inventory - A superb online monograph of the world´s hawkmoths.
Sphingidae of the Americas - One of Bill Oehlke´s sites packed with information about hawkmoths and how to raise them.
www.pybio.org - Ulf Drechsel´s site, with detailed distribution information about Paraguayan hawkmoths.

The Sphingidae are sometimes placed in their own superfamily but here we follow Scoble (1995) in placing them within the Superfamily Bombycoidea. The subfamilial and tribal classifications included here follow the latest review of the systematics of the family (Kitching & Cadiou 2000; Moré et al 2005).

Built for speed, the typical hawkmoth has long narrow, often pointed wings and a cigar-shaped, fusiform body. The antennae is generally filiform but occasionally bipectinate in males. The flagellum is swollen distally and hooked at the tip. In some species males can be distinguished from females by the somewhat triangular, as opposed to rounded, cross-section of the antennae and the presence  of conspicuous cilia. The eyes are large and they are able to see colour even in complete darkness. Ocelli are not present. The proboscis is usually well-developed and in some species it is exceptionally long - at rest it is kept coiled between the labial palps. Maxillary palpi are small, consisting of a single segment and labial palpi are well-developed and ascending. The first segment of the labial palpus may bear dense setae on the inner surface - a character that can be of taxonomic significance. Segment 2 is sometimes swollen and acts as a non-tympanic hearing organ. The epiphysis is present and the tarsal formula is 0-2-4 or, in rare cases, 0-2-2. The midleg may bear a midtarsal comb on the first segment. The forewings are two to four times longer than they are wide and the hindwings about twice as long as they are wide. Veins R2 and R3 are fused in the forewing. Vein M1 arises from a similar point as the Rs and may be stalked with it. Wing coupling is by means of a frenulum and retinaculum and the forewing metathoracic locking-device is absent.  In males the frenulum consists of a single strong bristle, in females it is brush-like and consists of several bristles. The abdomen is abdomen is robust but narrows towards the tip. In males the last two abdominal segments are fused to form the external genitalia. Metathoracic and abdominal tympanal organs are not present. (Scoble 1995; Turner & Stanêk 1992; Moré et al 2005).

Life Cycles
Adults are nocturnal or crepuscular, very few species are diurnal. At rest they adopt a cryptic pose with the forewings drawn back into an inverted V-shape and antennae tucked under the body. They are long-lived and strong fliers, feeding over a long period in the adult stage. For the most part they are nectar-feeders, some species hovering like hummingbirds in front of flowers (including the capacity to fly backwards and upside-down), others sucking while at rest and they often play an important role in pollination. This lifestyle requires revisiting of bushes that are in bloom and so neural capacity is well-developed to assist with "memory" of location of food sources. Some species have remarkably long tongues and flowers pollinated by hawkmoths ted to have pale corollas, a tube-like structure and produce vast quantities of nectar - in general they bloom at dusk and have a strong, sweet scent. Females choose the oviposition site carefully, laying single eggs, not batches, usually on the underside of leaves of larval food plants. Eggs are flattened or slightly rounded, tanslucent greenish in colour (though they darken with development), 1 to 3mm in diameter and lacking obvious structures. First instar larvae emerge after 4 to 7 days. Larvae are medium-sized to large with inconspicuous secondary setae (when present). A dorsal horn is present on segment A8 (leading to the old English name "hornworm") and a full set of prolegs are present. Many species exhibit prominent eyespot on the thorax. Aposematic colouration is present in a few species, but most larvae are cryptically-coloured. Three to five instars occur during development which has a duration of 2 to 5 weeks. Larvae are usually solitary and despite their size only very few species can be considered pests. When threatened larvae may draw the head into the body and rear up, adopting the posture of the Egyptian Sphinx (from where the family name "Sphingidae" originates). The pupae is fusiform with a prominent cremaster. In most groups the long proboscis is accommodated in a loop which coils outward from the main body of the pupa. Most species pupate in the soil or within leaf litter. The fifth to seventh abdominal segments are movable, allowing the pupae to bury itself and to reach the surface prior to emergence of the adult. The pupal stage lasts from two weeks to several months depending on species, ambient temperature and whether or not the species over winters in pupal form. The pupa splits dorsally and laterally as the adult emerges and the newly-emerged moth climbs to a vantage point from where it pumps its wings full of haemolymph - a process lasting approximately 30 minutes. Emergence is usually in late morning or early afternoon so that the wings can dry before nightfall. (Scoble 1995; Turner & Stanêk 1992; Moré et al 2005).


A total of 99 species of Hawkmoth are confirmed to occur in Paraguay, none of which are considered endemic to the country - click here for a current checklist of Paraguayan species. We currently have images of 95 species in this family. those marked with an * have images. Figures in brackets after the subfamilial names refer to the number of species for which we currently have images.

References for Paraguayan Sphingidae
Drechesel, U. unpubl. Fauna de Lepidoptera, Saturniidae y Sphingidae, del Refugio Biológico Carapa en el Departamento de Kanindejú, Paraguay.

Drechsel, U.,1994.Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Sphingidenfauna von Paraguay (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae).Entomolgische Zeitschrift., 104: 265-276.

Drechsel, U. 2014a. Protambulyx eurycles (Herrich-Schaeffer, 1854) new record from Paraguay (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Paraguay Biodiversidad 1: 19-21.

Drechsel, U. 2014b. Biodiversity Research in “Reserva Natural Dimas”. Paraguay Biodiversidad 1: 38-43.

Drechsel, U. 2014c. Preliminary studies of the biodiversity in Garay Cue “Reserva Natural Privada Cerrados del Tagatiya”. Paraguay Biodiversidad 1: 51-60.

Drechsel, U. 2014d. The early stages of Aellopos clavipes (Rothschild & Jordan, 1903) (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae). Paraguay Biodiversidad 1: 70-74.

Poulard J 1983. Colección de Lepidopteros de las zonas de Caaguazú, Isla Yacyreta y Cerro León, Paraguay. Informes Cientificos 4: 128-129.

Rios Diaz S 2014. Catálogo de los Sphingidae (Insecta: Lepidoptera) depositados en el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural del Paraguay. Boletín del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural del Paraguay 18:111-124.

Schade, F. 1927. Entomologische Skizzen aus Paraguay. IV. Sphingidae. Entomologische Rundschau, 44(5-6): 20/23-24.

Kitching IJ, Cadiou JM 2000 - Hawkmoths of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Revisionary Checklist (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) - Cornell University Press, Ithaca & London.
Moré M, Kitching IJ, Cocucci AA 2005 - Sphingidae: Esfíngidos de Argentina - LOLA, Buenos Aires.
Oehlke B accessed online December 2007 - Sphingidae of the Americas.
Scoble MJ 1995 - The Lepidoptera: Form, Function and Diversity - Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Turner D, Stanêk VJ 1992 - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths - Select Editions, London.
Thanks to Ian Kitching and Ulf Drechsel for assistance with Hawkmoth business.
Designed by Paul Smith 2006. This website is copyrighted by law.
Material contained herewith may not be used without the prior written permission of FAUNA Paraguay.
Special thanks to Ulf Drechsel for permission to use images from his site www.pybio.org.