Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the March 16, 2003 Newsletter issued from the woods of the Loess Hill Region a few miles south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA
WAVED SPHINX MOTH
My Kingston neighbor Karen Wise sent me an image of a moth to identify. It was a big one, about two inches long (5 cm), with intricate gray and brown patterns, found in her backyard surrounded by woods. Its picture didn't appear in any of my books so to identify it I went to the "Butterflies and Moths of North America" site at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/. I knew the moth was a member of the Sphinx Moth Family (the Sphingidae) so at that site I reviewed the gallery of images of various species of that family, found here.
The moth-identification process was a lot of fun and it's something anyone can do. It's a challenge to finally come up with a solid identification and then to read about what you have. In this case the mystery moth turned out to be the Waved Sphinx, CERATOMIA UNDULOSA. You can compare Karen's image of it at the right with the "Moths of North America" picture here..
At that page we read that Waved Sphinx caterpillars pupate underground, that they eat ash, privet, oak and hawthorn, that adults probably don't eat at all (just live long enough to mate and for the female to produce eggs), and that the Nature Conservancy considers the species to be secure globally, though it may be rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
The distribution map on the Waved Sphinx page shows that that species hasn't been recorded in our Adams County, so I attached the picture to an email and sent it to the Lepidopterists' Society. Thanks to Karen's picture, maybe before long Adams County will show up on the distribution map.
Anybody can do this. If you find something nice and report it, let me know.