Aaaah! ID this moth before it eats Maryland!

No, it’s not Mothra, but damned if it isn’t his cousin.

I was at the Takoma Metro station this evening (just outside the DC borders, for all you non-local lepidopterists) and came upon what may have been the biggest moth I’ve ever seen, trying to camouflage itself against a concrete pylon holding up the station roof. The body was about two inches long, with the upper wings extending downward and outward beyond the body for about another half-inch to inch. The lower edge of the wings lined up with the outside of the body so that the wings didn’t actually cover it. The wings themselves were a mottled brown, with a prominent set of light and dark brown stripes running along the lower edge (picture the moth’s head pointing upwards at the apex of a triangle; the stripes ran roughly along the base).

There was a prominent stripe down the back of the abdomen, and on the crest of the head was something that looked very much like a skull, or a human face, with dark black curves framing it so that it looked a little like someone peering out from under a large, heavy hood.

A fairly in-depth look at several on-line resources make me think it’s some sort of sphinx moth, since the shape of the body and size most closely resembled the family Sphingiidae. But I couldn’t find an exact picture of the beastie so I don’t know what I was looking at.

LepiDopers? What you got?

This picture doesn’t show the head all that clearly, but maybe a cecropia moth?

Possibly a species of Hawk Moth generally referred to as “Death’s Head Moths”?


That Yahoo site is temporarily unavailable.
Here is a link to a Cercropia photo.

I had thought maybe it was a Death’s Head, but those are apparently not found in the Western Hemisphere. The stripe on the abdomen wasn’t as thick, and the body wasn’t as brilliantly colored - this fellow was about six or seven different shades of brown all over. Definitely more than enough to camouflage himself on tree bark - or even concrete. I thought he was a water stain until I got within a foot of him.

And I know it wasn’t a Cecropia; my mom has one in a box that’s probably older than I am and I’d know one of those almost anywhere.

In response to myown post above, the Death’s Head Moths do not occur in Maryland. Possibly a “Waved Sphinx”?

Now we’re getting somewhere. The one at the top looks most like the guy I saw, except the eye spots were a little more pronounced. He might have been a Catalpa Sphinx; the guy I saw didn’t have as many stripes as the Waved Sphinx and the eye spots of the “skull” were black, not glowing orange (creepy!)