Pink-spotted Hawkmoth

Pink-spotted Hawkmoths (Agrius cingulata, formerly A. cingulatus) are found in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central America, and throughout much of South America. However, Pink-spotted Hawkmoths are very strong fliers, and strays can be found great distances from their normal range. I captured this Pink-spotted Hawkmoth below inside my Tucson, Arizona house one evening in October of 2007. After posing nicely for some photographs, it was released back out into the night.

Pink-spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata, formerly A. cingulatus)

Pink-spotted Hawkmoths are large, plump-bodied moths with an up to 4 3/4 inch (12 cm) wingspan, and they can be identified by the alternating black and bright pink bands on the sides of their abdomen. Pink-spotted Hawkmoths have furry legs, mottled brown and gray forewings, black-banded hindwings with bright pink at the base, and large, dark eyes.

With their unusually large eyes, the nocturnal Pink-spotted Hawkmoths are easily able to find and visit nectar-filled, night-blooming flowers. Moth-pollinated flowers are usually white so that they can better be seen at night, fragrant to attract moths by scent, and tubular in shape to hold the sweet nectar supply.

Night-blooming Sweet Four O'Clock (Mirabilis longiflora) flowers

A number of Sweet Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis longiflora) were blooming in my yard during that October when I found the Pink-spotted Hawkmoth. The Sweet Four O'Clock plants later produced a good crop of seeds, so some night creature, perhaps it was the Pink-spotted Hawkmoth, managed to pollinate these night-blooming flowers despite their amazingly long floral tubes. Sweet Four O'Clocks are sweetly fragrant and have all of the characteristics of a moth-pollinated flower, but it would take a large moth like a Hawkmoth or a Sphinx Moth (Family Sphingidae) to pollinate them.

Both the nectar-feeding adult Pink-spotted Hawkmoths and their leaf-munching caterpillars are attracted to plants in the Morning-glory Family (Convolvulaceae), especially fragrant, night-blooming, white Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba). The caterpillars will also feed on some plants in the Potato Family (Solanaceae) like Jimsonweed (Datura spp.) despite their toxicity.