Moths of Philadelphia: A Checklist


Clearwing Humminbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe). Photo by Donna L. Long.
Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe). Photo by Donna L. Long.

The moths of Philadelphia are an exclusive bunch, numbering only fifty-two species. The 52 species on this list are confirmed to fly around in the City of Philadelphia (Philadelphia County). I am fascinated by moths, but I often don’t venture out moth-hunting. I can go in my garden at night, but for the last week I have been a “walking mosquito buffet”. So, no going outside after dusk.

I think moths are often prettier than butterflies.

Further Moth-flavored Info

There are over 10,500 identified species of moths in North America, north of Mexico. And there very few books on moths except a handful of regional guides. Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides) by David L. Wagner is one-of-kind and I find it extremely useful. I would like to read Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America also by David L. Wagner, but there is only one Owlet moth listed for Philadelphia, the Striped Garden Caterpillar. But, the book may be valuable for your hometown.  Create your county list and find out.

Mr. John Snyder’s website is useful for identification

Since this list is for my hometown of Philly, don’t despair. You can generate a list for your county at the website of Butterflies and Moths of North America sponsored by Montana State University  at Look under “regional lists”.

All the hyperlinks below take you to the species account at the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.

mystery moths
mystery moth

More Posts on Moths

Stalking the Woolly Bear Caterpillar 

Bagworm Moth: Little Brown Bags on the Tips of Trees

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth and Its Life Cycle

Polyphemus Moth – Luminous Beauty


Moths of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania

Saturniidae Wild Silk Moths

Automeris io Io moth
Hemileuca maia Eastern buckmoth
Antheraea polyphemus Polyphemus moth my post on the Polyphemus Moth
Callosamia angulifera Tuliptree silkmoth
Callosamia promethea Promethea silkmoth
Hyalophora cecropia Cecropia silkmoth
Samia cynthia Ailanthus silkmoth
Anisota stigma Spiny oakworm moth
Citheronia regalis Royal Walnut Moth
Eacles imperialis Imperial moth

Sphingidae Sphinx Moths, Hawkmoths

Agrius cingulata Pink-spotted hawkmoth
Amorpha juglandis Walnut sphinx
Ceratomia amyntor Elm sphinx
Ceratomia catalpae Catalpa sphinx
Ceratomia undulosa Waved sphinx
Dolba hyloeus Pawpaw sphinx
Lapara coniferarum Southern pine sphinx
Manduca quinquemaculata Five-spotted hawkmoth
Manduca sexta Carolina sphinx
Pachysphinx modesta Modest sphinx
Paonias myops Small-eyed sphinx
Paratraea plebeja Plebeian sphinx
Sphinx chersis Great ash sphinx
Sphinx eremitus Hermit sphinx
Sphinx franckii Franck’s sphinx
Sphinx kalmiae Laurel sphinx
Aellopos tantalus Tantalus sphinx
Amphion floridensis Nessus sphinx
Darapsa myron Virginia creeper sphinx
Deidamia inscriptum Lettered sphinx
Enyo lugubris Mournful sphinx
Erinnyis ello Ello sphinx
Eumorpha achemon Achemon sphinx
Eumorpha labruscae Gaudy sphinx
Eumorpha pandorus Pandorus sphinx
Eumorpha vitis Vine sphinx
Hemaris diffinis Snowberry clearwing
Hemaris gracilis Slender clearwing
Hemaris thysbe Hummingbird clearwing- My post on the Clearwing and Its’ Lifecyle 
Hyles lineata White-lined sphinx
Xylophanes tersa Tersa sphinx

Notodontidae Prominents

Heterocampa biundata Wavy-lined Heterocampa

Arctiidae Tiger Moths and Lichen Moths

Crambidia uniformis Uniform Lichen Moth
Halysidota harrisii Sycamore Tussock Moth
Hypercompe scribonia Great Leopard Moth

Noctuidae Owlet Moths, Miller Moths

Trichordestra legitima Striped Garden Caterpillar

Yponomeutidae Yponomeutid Moths

Atteva aurea Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Pyralidae Pyralid Moths

Plodia interpunctella Indian-Meal Moth

Geometridae Geometer Moths, Looper Moths

Synchlora aerata Wavy-Lined Emerald


  1. I just read a paper from 2015 that concluded that Samia cynthia is now extinct in Philadelphia. I know that for years it was very common in the city. Do you have any first hand accounts that it has been found in Philly recently, and if so, where?

    • Hi, James

      Thanks for contacting me.

      When I look for an account of Samia cynthia on the website, the moth is listed as extinct.

      The moth was brought here from its native China for silk production, The host plant is the Chinese of Heaven, an invasive tree that people have actively been removing from forest, gardens, parks, etc.

      When a species is introduced and its host plant is an invasive species, the insect won’t have much of a future. I am not surprised it didn’t last.

      Check out these two sites for information.

      The Lepidopterists’ Society – Perhaps if you contact them they may be be able to answer your questions.
      Butterflies and Moths of North America

      Hope this helps.

    • James, I have no doubts that I had an encounter with the larvae (caterpillars) of the Samia Cynthia moth back around 1978-1979 while I was working in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. The address was 1728 N. 5th St. but is now 1730 N. 5th. There was a blind courtyard with a door out to it from the shop I worked in. Several ailanthus trees were growing in there. One day I went to work at a machine near a window that opened into the courtyard and there were all these huge green caterpillars that found their way inside.
      I was a bit creeped out and relocated them outside. The Ailanthus trees were apparently their host tree. i deduce that these were Cynthia moths that somehow managed to survive the “extinction” of them in Philadelphia. On Google maps aerial view, i can see trees still growing in that courtyard. I would love to find out if those caterpillars are there every year.

      • I bet u saw them. Animals don’t bother with human made range maps. And these moths fly anywhere they want to

  2. And don’t forget to mention that wonderful resource:,
    You can narrow it down to Philadelphia county: and you can use a google map from that link.
    I use it all the time. I have contributed a few images of moths from Southeastern PA to this site; but I tend to take more pictures of bees and flies than moths.

  3. Thanks, I can really use these resources. It looks like BAMONA welcomes submissions of pics to help with ID. I just might avail myself.

We're Listening

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.