Manduca rustica - (Fabricius, 1775)
Rustic Sphinx
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.118358
Element Code: IILEX04040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Sphinx Moths
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Sphingidae Manduca
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B83HOD01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Manduca rustica
Taxonomic Comments: No subspecies are recognized, and except for the slightly more frosted appearance of California specimens (Tuttle, 2007) there seems to be remarkably little variation in adult appearance from Virginia to South America. US populations in the arid southwest and humid southeast are rather distinctive ecologically and perhaps will prove to be genetically distinct, but no species-subspecies level taxonomic changes appear likely.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 31Jul2012
Global Status Last Changed: 31May2002
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: G5 reflects the global status, for now N4N5 should probably apply for the the United States. A very widespread, versatile, moth from the southern US through much of Latin America.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (17Oct2000)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Arizona (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), California (SNR), Delaware (SU), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Kentucky (S2S4), Louisiana (SNR), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), New Mexico (SNR), North Carolina (SNR), Oklahoma (SNR), Pennsylvania (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (SNR), Virginia (SNR)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: In the USA, widespread in the Southeast north into southern Virginia, southern Missouri, and west to eastern Texas, then northwest along the US border from southern Texas into southern California, including a substantial portion of southern Arizona, then south into Uruguay. Strays uncommonly northeastward, but probably not resident even on the coast north of about Richmond, although larvae have been found at least once in Delaware and long ago apparently in New Jersey.

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: An estimate

Number of Occurrences: > 300

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some to very many (13 to >125)

Overall Threat Impact Comments: No known widespread threats. Not generally found in northeastern US so unaffected by apparent Sphinginae declines there.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Highly adaptable to new anthropogenic habitats and uses several exotic foodplants, as well as natives. Probably less adapatalbe in northeastern corner of the range.

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Cities, deserts, humid temperate forests, rain forests, seasonally dry tropical forests.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) In the USA, widespread in the Southeast north into southern Virginia, southern Missouri, and west to eastern Texas, then northwest along the US border from southern Texas into southern California, including a substantial portion of southern Arizona, then south into Uruguay. Strays uncommonly northeastward, but probably not resident even on the coast north of about Richmond, although larvae have been found at least once in Delaware and long ago apparently in New Jersey.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, NM, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
OK Grady (40051)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
11 Upper Washita (11130302)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Ecology Comments: Likely to be a pollinator of some desert plants like mescal and perhaps the larval foodplants as well. This could be important for the plants, but the moths are adaptable and can use many kinds of flowers. While dispersive and capable of straying hundreds of kilometers, if not more, this is apparently generally a resident species in most of the range mapped by Tuttle (2007). Despite its tropical heritage, the species has pupal diapause and adapts readily to seasonally arid or seasonally cold climates, and in most of its US range only underground pupae are present most of the year.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Apparently not really migratory, at least not in North America, but individuals can stray hundreds of kilometers out of habitat.
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Forest Edge, Forest/Woodland, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Urban/edificarian
Habitat Comments: Poorly documented eastern populations appear to use primarily forests, but the main habitat association would be based on the larval foodplants, which are really not clear but may include most Oleaceae. The overall distribution eastward, where it extends well into regions with cold winters, matches that of Chionanthus rather closely. In the Southwest, the species breeds mostly in riparian habitats and in urban areas with artificially watered ornamental Bignoniaceae, and usually not more than a few hundred kilometers from the Mexican border. Farther south a variety of tropical forests are among the habitats.
Adult Food Habits: Nectarivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Larvae of this species over its vast range feed on a diverse array of plants from multiple families, e.g. in Costa Rica. In the southwestern USA, the species has been well-studied and the primary foodplants appear to be species of Bignoniaceae, including two common natives, Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) and Tecoma stans, and the introduced Tecomeria capensis, also Bignonia (Wagner, 2005), as well a a few Verbenaceae such as Lantana, Callicarpa americana, Aloysia species (Tuttle, 2007). A few Boraginaceae, such as Ehretia anancua in Texas, are also used.

The foodplants in the southeastern USA do not appear to be well documented. Fringe tree (Chionanthus) is probably the most often repeated and fits the eastern range of the moth as mapped by Tuttle (2007) rather closely. Tuttle states that "hollies", which have not been previously reported, are used, but does not give any actual species and some, e.g. Ilex opaca, seem unlikely. Otherwise southeastern records are for Oleaceae. Besides Chionanthus, ashes have been repeated in the literature over the past 100-200 years. Robinson et al. (2002) trace records for lilac and privet back to John Abbott in the late 1700s, and jasmine is credited to Holland (1903). While all of these are plausible, some Abbott records for Sphingidae (e.g. for Sphinx kalmiae) were incorrect. Robinson et al. (2002) do give one modern confirmation of privet (Ligustrum vulgare), but the locality is unclear. Curiously none of these authors report the common eastern trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), which is related to and fairly similar to Tecoma stans, a foodplant. This moth is likely to be a pollinator of several deep tubular desert flowers, along with other species of Manduca, other hawk moths, and hummingbirds. Adults visit a variety of flowers as do most Sphingidae. Tuttle lists a few and others can be found on the internet. Adults probably wander at times in search of nectar. Tuttle (2007) also reports them visiting over-ripe cactus fruits.

Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: This species adapts to local climate. It apparently normally has only one annual generation in desert regions, except two in artificially watered urban habitats. In the long, warm, moist, growing season of the southeastern United States there are probably two, perhaps a partial third, annual generations northward and three southward, with the adults typically present from about late May into September, or longer along the Gulf Coast. However, eclosion of adults from overwintered pupae is probably staggered, making the number of broods unclear. The egg and larval stage probably take about a month, and non-diapausing pupae probably less, so a generation time of around two months seems likely. Adults are nocturnal. Overwintering, aestivation, and any other dormant period, is as underground pupae. Occasionally strays occur far to the northeast of the normal range in summer or fall.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Pollinating Hawk Moths

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Conceptually an occurrence would be a location with evidence of presence (or historical presence) that is large enough to have potential for continued presence and/or regular recurrence, that is generally where larvae occur. Minimally based on a specimen or diagnostic photograph of a larva or adult, or for some species even an expert sight record associated with suitable habitat. In practice most collection locations in a region where the species is resident may be considered as indicative of an occurrence nearby. These moths are apparently usually landscape level species, most of which do not form localized populations making occurrence definition difficult at best. Adults commonly move several kilometers to find food and the larger species could very easily move 100 km in a few nights. Even some smaller ones, Aellopos, do so. Thus occurrences for breeding areas should be based on regular presence of larvae, although not necessarily every year. In North America do not track late season occurrences of adults or larvae well north of their permanent range as occurrences, such as larvae of Agrius cingulatus in the fall on sweet potato in New Jersey or Virginia or any tropical species in Canada. Occurrences based on adult reseources probably would not be useful and would often be gardens.
Mapping Guidance: In the few cases where there is an obvious local habitat preference the occurrence boundaries would often be the same as for the associated plant community although an EO might consist of several discrete proximate patches. Similarly if the larval foodplant is strictly confined to a particular mappable habitat these can be mapped as discrete patches several to many of which can be combined as a plausible EO. In most cases though boundaries will be very difficult to define. Mapping individual plants as separate EOs would be unrealistic since it would take many plants to maintain a population. Note that even with MANDUCA BLACKBURNI whose primary native foodplant is now quite scarce, mapping these probably does not fully define the EO because larvae also feed on exotic Solanaceae. In the western USA habitats and thus occurrence boundaries will very often be defined by edaphic features or by plant communities limited by altitude. For example in arid regions FRAXINUS or VITIS feeders will be confined to riparian corridors usually in canyons and these easily mapped features can be used to define the EO.
Separation Barriers: In most cases potential barriers will be large and better treated as unsuitable habitats, but smaller brightly lit urban areas, large bodies of water with on-shore breezes, high peaks (especially those with night temperature below 10 C), or possibly habitats where night time temperatures oftren stay above 30 C; or (especially in Florida) places with frequent extensive mosquito spraying might be considered barriers. Local observations may occasionally suggest features which greatly curtail movement and if these are well under the separation distance in size they may be considered as barriers.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Where EOs occupy islands in the ocean (e.g. off the coast of New England, USA; Hawaii) separate islands would generally be considered separate EOs if they are more than 1 kilometer from each other or from the mainland.
Separation Justification: These separation distances are arbitrary but seem reasonable considering the flight capabilities of these moths. For example D. Schweitzer has twice estimated SPHINX GORDIUS cruising along sand roads at around 40 kilometers per hour in New Jersey using an automobile speedometer. This is certainly not one of the fastest species of sphinx moths. this one though does recognize habitat boundaries (i.e. rarely enters forests) and some of the others do likewise. There are claims of faster speeds for a few. It is here assumed that most or all of them fly at 20-60 kilometers per hour or faster so all separation distances could be traversed less than half an hour. Larger distances are deemed somewhat imparctical at least if there is some need to define occurrences based on unsuitable intervening habitats. In eastern North America many species occur sparsely in forests, thickets and subrubia where their larvae feed on well distributed but not dominant, sometimes sparse, trees (often FRAXINUS), vines (mostly Vitaceae), shrubs, or even herbs. Adults lay hundreds of eggs usually singly or perhaps two or three on a plant and usually not many in a patch which implies they must cover many kilometers. There is no known documentation of individual movement distances, but some of these species rather commonly stray more than 500 to 1000 kilometers out of their normal ranges and obviously the ancestor(s) of MANDUCA BLACKBURNI colonized HAWAII from the Americas ranking these moths among the most mobile land animals on earth. It is quite unclear in many temperate areas whether related pest MANDUCA can even survive the winters or recolonize annually from hundreds of kilometers to the south. It is not at all unusual to observe or collect adults of many species (e.g some HEMARIS, HYLES, some MANDUCA) several kilometers out of habitat and likely that adults often move several kilometers per day looking for nectar or oviposition sites. Even the short lived non-feeding PACHSPHINX MODESTA and CERATOMIA AMYNTOR have shown up ten kilometers or more out of habitat in southern New Jersey (Schweitzer)--certainly failry sedentary species. At the other extreme a mass migration of the American Hyles lineata was documented widely in Great Britain in 1943.

With adequate search effort suitable habitat would almost always prove to support occupancy or frequent recurrence where it is within a few kilometers of known occupied habitat. However instances will occur where documentation of presence is limited and available proximate habitat vast. Likewise part of an occurrence (but not an entire C rank or better EO) could easily be unoccupied at times, e.g. certain months or years. Some species are very hard to document, such as SPHINX DRUPIFERARUM which is likely to be overlooked by standard collecting lights and does not come to sugar baits and at least in the Northeast generally turns up by accident.

Both distances are arbitrary, the unsuitable habitat distance is especially tentative since it is not at all known for most species if they respond to and tend to avoid habitat changes or simply cruise over large landscapes looking for mates and oviposition sites. On the other hand the separation distance within extensive suitable habitat is clearly conservative given that occurrences are populations of dozens to thousands or more of wide ranging individuals which probably live a couple of weeks and each of which can easily move 20 kilometers in an hour, so there is almost no chance that two collections only 20 kilometers apart in extensive tracts of habitat would really represent two separate occurrences.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: IE is really moot for such often low density landscape level moths that can easily move a kilometer in less than a minute. In the relatively few cases where edaphic or obvious habitat features clearly define the habitat one could reasonably consider any such patches within up to ten kilometers as part of the known EO but since this figure is probably impractical for an IE of all foodplant patches within two kilometers is arbitrarily suggested. Note USFWS designated critical habitat patches for MANDUCA BLACKBURNI up to 15,216 hectares and none under 100 hectares. Obviously functional occurrences for many continental species would be much larger. A conservative suggestion for inferred extent for a landscape level sphinx moth really would be all suitable habitat within a 5 km radius, but that may be impractical and many occurrences are much larger.
Date: 19Jun2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Notes: These Specs were drafted mainly for higlhy mobile species with feeding aduts and relatively sparsely distributed foodplants. They may be inappropriate for species feeding on locally abundant plants such as Ericaceae, aspens, willows, or Myricaceae which may support denser populations that can persist in as little as a few hundred hectares or even less. Some of these are already assigned to other Specs groups but perhaps most SMERINTHINAE should have separate Specs. For a useful general review doubtless as applicable to temperate species as it is to tropical ones see the critical habitat proposal for MANDUCA BLACKBURNI (USFWS, 2002, e.g. p. 40640) and references therein.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 24Apr2012
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24Apr2012
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Schweitzer, D.F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Brou, V. A., and C. D. Brou. 1997. Distribution and phenology of Louisiana Sphingidae. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 51(2):156-175.

  • Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.

  • Powell, J. A. and P. A. Opler. 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 369 pp.

  • Tuttle, J. P. 2007. The hawk moths of North America: A natural history study of the Sphingidae of the United States and Canada. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, Washington, D. C. 253 pp. +23 plates.

  • Wagner, D.L. 2012. Moth decline in the northeastern United States. News of the Lepidopteristss Society 54(2):52-56.

  • Wagner, D.L. 2005. Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. 512 pp.

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