leafy spurge hawkmoth

(Hyles euphorbiae)

leafy spurge hawkmoth
Photo by Lucy Morrissey
  Hodges #


Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed


Leafy spurge hawkmoth is a large exotic moth. It is native to Europe and western Asia. It was introduced into the United States in the 1960s. Since then it has spread widely and its range continues to expand. It now occurs in the northern United States and southern Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. It is found from late May through July in disturbed meadows and other grasslands with large populations of leafy spurge. Larvae feed on the foliage of leafy spurge and other members of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family. Adults feed on flower nectar.

Adults are large-bodied, 1½ to 2 (38 to 50 mm) long, and have a wingspan of 29 16 to 31 16 (64 to 77 mm). A narrow white stripe on each side extends from the side of the head, over the eye to the end of the thorax. The antennae are white and have numerous short, comb-like extensions on one side (pectinate). The body is brown. The abdomen has a narrow white stripe on each side between each abdominal segment that does not meet on the upper side.

The forewing is long and narrow with a smooth leading edge (costal margin), a convex outer margin, and a slightly concave inner margin. The upperside is light tan with a slight pinkish tinge and is peppered with black specks. There is an olive-brown, almost square patch in the basal area, and another on the costal margin in the median area. An olive-brown postmedial band begins as a broad patch on the inner margin, narrows abruptly, then tapers almost to a point at the apex. The pale area on the outer margin is usually heavily peppered.

The hindwing is black with a broad, rose-pink, median band; a narrower, pink, terminal band; and a white patch at the anal angle. The underside of both wings is pink.

The larva (caterpillar) is black and brown or entirely black. Each abdominal segment has several rows on tiny yellowish spots and a single large yellowish spot on each side (subdorsally). A black-tipped red horn protrudes from the upper side of the eighth abdominal segment (A8). A narrow, red, upper middle (middorsal) stripe extends from behind the head to the base of the horn. There is a pair of fleshy, leg-like structures on A3 through A6 and on A10. The prolegs on A10 are flattened laterally allowing the caterpillar to tightly grip stems, twigs, and leaves. There is a hardened plate (anal plate) on the upper side of A10. The head, prolegs, and anal plate are colored the same, usually red. Mature caterpillars are up to 2¾ (7 cm) long and are often found in late summer crossing roads.




Total Length: 1½ to 2 (38 to 50 mm)

Wingspan: 29 16 to 31 16 (64 to 77 mm)


Similar Species


Disturbed meadows and other grasslands with populations of leafy spurge.




Probably just a single generation per year in North America: Late May through July.




Adults are active during the day but mostly late in the day and after dark. They hover like a hummingbird when visiting flowers. They will come to light.


Life Cycle


The female lays a single egg or a small cluster of eggs on the underside of a host plant leaf. Pupa overwinter in the ground just below the surface.


Larva Hosts


Leafy spurge and other members of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family.


Adult Food


Flower nectar


Distribution Map



21, 24, 29, 30, 75.







Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  




  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  


Bombycoidea (hawk, sphinx, silk, emperor, and allied moths)  


Sphingidae (hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms)  




  Subtribe Choerocampina  



Subordinate Taxa


leafy spurge hawkmoth (Hyles euphorbiae conspicua)

leafy spurge hawkmoth (Hyles euphorbiae euphorbiae)


Eighty-five subspecies have been described. Only two are currently recognized. Only one occurs in North America.




Celerio euphorbiae

Sphinx euphorbiae


Common Names


leafy spurge hawkmoth

spurge hawkmoth










Anal plate

In snakes: the large scale in front of and covering the anus. In turtles: one of the posterior plates of the lower shell (plastron). In Lepidoptera: the often hardened shield on the dorsal surface of the last (10th) segment of the abdomen.


Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.



A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.






Visitor Photos

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Lucy Morrissey

    leafy spurge hawkmoth      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Hyles euphorbiae
Adam Grochowalski

Sep 22, 2017

Der Film zeigt den gesamten Lebenszyklus des Schmetterlings.
The film presents the full life cycle of the moth.
Film przedstawia pełny cykl rozwojowy tej pięknej ćmy.

Hyles euphorbiae, Celerio euphorbiae, Wolfsmilchschwärmer, Spurge Hawk-moth, Zmrocznik wilczomleczek, Lišaj mliečnikový, Lišaj pryšcový, Бражник молочайный, Esfinge de la Lechetrezna, Tyräkkikiitäjä, Vitsprötad skymningssvärmare.




Visitor Sightings

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  E. Snyder

Location: Missouri River south of Garrison Dam


  Lucy Morrissey

Location: Carver County

leafy spurge hawkmoth

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Created: 8/13/2021

Last Updated:

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