Sphinx gordius - Cramer, 1779
Apple Sphinx Moth
Other English Common Names: Apple Sphinx, Gordian Sphinx
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sphinx gordius Cramer (TSN 188623)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.109803
Element Code: IILEX0B170
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Sphinx Moths
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Sphingidae Sphinx
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kitching, I.J. and J.Cadiou. 2000. Hawkmoths of the world. An annotated and illustrated revisionary checklist (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). The Natural History Museum, London. 226 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B00KIT01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sphinx gordius
Taxonomic Comments: Note that most older references including the MONA fascicle (Hodges, 1971) include S. poecila under this name. They were treated as separate species by Riotte (1981). The fact that they are sometimes microsympatric, partially synchronic, and still usually readily identifiable (males anyway) on Block Island, southeastern Massachusetts, the Poconos of Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin is strong evidence these are separate species. S. gordius is also much more restricted to barrens and large bogs. Separation is sometimes difficult, especially of females, but geography will usually work. For example all Canadian and interior New England and northern New York records appear to be S. poecila and apparently only S. gordius occurs south of 41 degrees North. True Sphinx gordius is the more southern of the two but they overlap in coastal southern New England and from Michigan through Minnesota. Rocky Mountain populations in Colorado and Utah populations apparently represent at least a separate subspecies, and maybe species. Northern plains populations may also be distinctive, although adults appear similar from Wisconsin eastward.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 03Feb2015
Global Status Last Changed: 03Feb2015
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (17Oct2000)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4 (24Aug2017)

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 Colorado (S4), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (SNR), Florida (SNR), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (SNR), Kentucky (S1S2), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (S2S4), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Missouri (SNR), Montana (SNR), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (SNR), New York (S1S3), North Carolina (S3S4), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S1S3), Rhode Island (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Utah (SNR), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (SNR), West Virginia (SNR), Wisconsin (SNR), Wyoming (SNR)
Canada Manitoba (S4), New Brunswick (SNA), Ontario (SNR), Quebec (SNR), Saskatchewan (S3)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The BAMONA map is remarkably incomplete for this species west of Pennsylvania but more complete eastward. The range is much more fragmented and disjunct than shown by Tuttle (2007) and is obviously determined by edaphic conditions suitable for an abundance of low Ericaceae or Myricaceae in much of the range. It occurs widely on the coast from about Boston and Cape Cod to southern New Jersey, disjunctly much farther south in southeastern North Carolina and Florida. The prepupal New Hampshire caterpillar (BAMONA #1000334) is not S. gordius and its coloration, markings and head pattern suggest S. drupiferarum (det. Dale Schweitzer, David Wagner). S. gordius also ranged, and might still, across northern New Jersey, and occurs now from Sussex County west to Centre County, Pennsylvania, Garrett County, Maryland and Tucker County, West Virginia (misidentified as S. poecila) with older records continuing south in eastern West Virginia with four widely scattered ones in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. While unmapped by BAMONA the species also occurs extensively in sandy regions in northwest Ohio (Tuttle, 2007, Plate 6), Lower Michigan (e.g. Tuttle, 2007 Plate 19), and central Wisconsin (Ferge and Balogh, 2000) northwest through northern Minnesota (e.g. BAMONA #695903) into North Dakota, extreme western Ontario and southern Manitoba (Tuttle, 2007). There is also substantial cluster of old records from western Illinois and a few in Missouri, and finally a cluster in the Rockies of Colorado extending into Wyoming and northern Utah. The area of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota is about 646, 000 km2, and the range of the moth perhaps half that in those states. Again in Pennsylvania only a portion (maybe a third) of the 119, 000 km2 is range extent and the extension into Maryland and West Virginia less than doubles it. On the coast, the New Jersey pinelands is about one million acres (4049 km2). The distribution farther north is probably less, and North Carolina and Florida add very little. So this core distribution and the eastern fragments are well under 1,000,000 km2. The more western portion, especially currently, is very poorly known.

Number of Occurrences: 21 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Occurrences would be difficult to define where the species is widespread such as in southern New Jersey and Michigan to Manitoba. In other places like New England and Pennsylvania habitats are often easier to define. Plus there is no real information. There are certainly dozens of populations, but information is poor for much of the range.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Declining in New England, apparently stable in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, no information elsewhere

Long-term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: By far most original potential pocosin and wet pineland habitat in the Southeast was obliterated decades to centuries ago. Habitat loss may have been a lot less in the Northeast and Midwest due to the low agricultural productivity of the soils. No information elsewhere.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to moderate.
Environmental Specificity Comments: From Wisconsin eastward habitats include and array of open to moderately wooded dry to boggy acid soil situations with low Ericaceae of Myricaceae (northern bayberry, sweetfern) as a major component of the understory over substantial areas. Examples include large bogs, pitch, jack and long-leaf pine woodlands and barrens, scrub oak barrens, coastal scrub and in Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey also somewhat open oak-heath woodland or forest. Habitats in Minnesota are probably also pine barrens, bogs, heathlands, e.g. BAMONA #695903 apears to be in a sphagnum bog. Habitats elsewhere from the Dakotas to Illinois and Colorado are unknown. Many old reports and as far as can be determine foodplant records for apple and other plants not in the Ericaceae and Myricaceae are either wrong or more often refer to Sphinx poecila.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) The BAMONA map is remarkably incomplete for this species west of Pennsylvania but more complete eastward. The range is much more fragmented and disjunct than shown by Tuttle (2007) and is obviously determined by edaphic conditions suitable for an abundance of low Ericaceae or Myricaceae in much of the range. It occurs widely on the coast from about Boston and Cape Cod to southern New Jersey, disjunctly much farther south in southeastern North Carolina and Florida. The prepupal New Hampshire caterpillar (BAMONA #1000334) is not S. gordius and its coloration, markings and head pattern suggest S. drupiferarum (det. Dale Schweitzer, David Wagner). S. gordius also ranged, and might still, across northern New Jersey, and occurs now from Sussex County west to Centre County, Pennsylvania, Garrett County, Maryland and Tucker County, West Virginia (misidentified as S. poecila) with older records continuing south in eastern West Virginia with four widely scattered ones in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. While unmapped by BAMONA the species also occurs extensively in sandy regions in northwest Ohio (Tuttle, 2007, Plate 6), Lower Michigan (e.g. Tuttle, 2007 Plate 19), and central Wisconsin (Ferge and Balogh, 2000) northwest through northern Minnesota (e.g. BAMONA #695903) into North Dakota, extreme western Ontario and southern Manitoba (Tuttle, 2007). There is also substantial cluster of old records from western Illinois and a few in Missouri, and finally a cluster in the Rockies of Colorado extending into Wyoming and northern Utah. The area of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota is about 646, 000 km2, and the range of the moth perhaps half that in those states. Again in Pennsylvania only a portion (maybe a third) of the 119, 000 km2 is range extent and the extension into Maryland and West Virginia less than doubles it. On the coast, the New Jersey pinelands is about one million acres (4049 km2). The distribution farther north is probably less, and North Carolina and Florida add very little. So this core distribution and the eastern fragments are well under 1,000,000 km2. The more western portion, especially currently, is very poorly known.

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 CO, CT, DE, FL, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY
Canada MB, NB, ON, QC, SK

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
NY Suffolk (36103)
PA Luzerne (42079), Sullivan (42113), Wyoming (42131)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Southern Long Island (02030202)+, Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock (02050106)+, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: There are, as with almost all Lepidoptera, no published data. However, Dale Schweitzer has twice estimated the speed of individuals cruising alon sand roads in New Jersey at roughly 25 miles (42 km) per hour using automobile speedometers. While hardly definitive this gives a crude estimate that is used in the SPECS for big landscape level sphinx moths.
Adult Food Habits: Nectarivore
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A place where this species occurs, or has recently occurred, where there is potential for persistence or continued recurrence. Minimally a location where this species has been verified by adult specimens verified by and expert and found in association with suitable habitat. Outside of the range of S. POECILUS photographs are acceptable including those of larvae. An occurrence ranked higher than D must support a permanent viable population. The actual nature of the habitat varies geographically and is virtually unknown for western populations. In southern New Jersey and possibly elsewhere this is a common landscape level sphinx moth with EOs almost undefinable. Elsewhere it is more localized in bogs or barrens, rarely even bogs as small as about 100 hectares,
Mapping Guidance: In most places habitat will be discrete and fairly obvious and entire barren or bog, although perhaps boundaries may be less obvious south of New Jersey. Interpret suitable habitat somewhat loosely. Adults do occur in shrubland patches where the foodplants happen to be a bit sparser than in adjacent one. So in general marginal habitats should be treated as suitable. Closed canopy forest can be treated as unsuitable. As far as known the smallest occupied habitat is about 100 hectares and most are more like 1000 to 10,000.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 25 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Where this species is localized such as in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin occurrences will be usually discrete communities with obvious boundaries. In central Wisconsin such habitats will be entire barrens of thousands of hectares. On off shore islands such as Block Island, most of the island is the EO, and only the most developed parts and active pastures are probably unsuitable. Islands of this size should not be treated as having more than one occurrence. In New Jersey there is little likelihood that EOs would need to be mapped and there is really only one major occurrence anyway-- but of more than 200,000 hectares. If subdivision is necessary use vegetation maps and attempt to find discontinuities of several km. Most more open variants of pitch pine lowlands, oak scrub, shrub swamps, bogs and of course dwarf pine areas are all very highly suitable and as far as known all are occupied north of the Mullica River. More mature pine-oak forest there is marginal habitat and can be arbitrarily treated as unsuitable in New Jersey if this would aid in defining useful occurrences, even though adults occur in such habitat if good habitat is nearby.
Separation Justification: This species definitely does not turn up often out of habitat, in fact almost never except in southern New Jersey. Also while some similr sized sphingidae reach oceanic islands or move up to 2000 km no long distance this have been collected for this one. Thus it does appear separation would be achieved by only a few kilometers of unsuitable habitat. In fact in New Jersey small suitable habitats a few tens of km or less from the core area are often not occupied. However, where habitat is extensive this species is ubiquitous, common to abundant, and extremely mobile. For example in New Jersey where in reality there are one primary occurrence encompassing more than 200,000 hectares from about Lakehurst to Batsto and a few smaller ones to the south. D. Schweitzer has twice estimated cruising speed at around 40 km per hour with an automobile speedometer. They can obviously fly a lot faster for brief periods. With large populations and adults probably living several weeks this species will occupy contiguous habitat, probably within one season of its initial availability in occupied regions. In any large barrens complex all observations surely are of one occurrence, but an arbitrary limit of 25 kilometers is suggested, although obviously a distance easily traversed in much less than an hour by a long-lived moth is not biologically meaningful. The species is not tracked in New Jersey where it is very common but this distance might be useful in places like North Carolina, Long Island, New York. or the central Wisconsin jack pine barrens.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent is usually simply the contiguous or nearly contiguous habitat of several hundred to several thousand hectares. However to be prudent (and probably overly cautious) do not infer more than 3 kilometers should any new occurrences in really large habitats be found. No cases are suspected where this species consistently fails to occupy all of the habitat where it occurs. If the habitat really is large it will be occupied. A circle of 3 km would define a moderate sized occurs of 2500 hectares. One known occurrence is only a few hundred hectares but most are several thousand and several are over ten thousand. It is also worth noting that pine barrens under about 500 hectares will generally lack this moth. With a moth that can easily move a kilometer in under two minutes, it does not seem reasonable with extensive habitats to assume the occurrence is among the smallest known smallest known--which would be the outcome if one used 1 km for IE. Three km is obviously low in some situations for such a species but should be practical and is probably large enough to encompass most occurrences at least outside of New Jersey and Wisconsin. Note though IE applies only across suitable habitat. If there are closed canopy forests or other unsuitable situations do not infer occupancy of them.
Date: 09Feb2004
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 23Jan2015
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 19Apr2001

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

References
Help
  • Bess, James. 2005. A Report on the Remnant-Dependent Insects of the Coastal Zone Natural Area Remnants in Northwest Indiana. 23 pp..

  • Covell, Charles V. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

  • D'Abrera, B. 1986. Shingidae Mundi: Hawk Moths of the World. E. W. Classey Limited, Farington, Oxon, U. K.

  • General Status 2015, Environment Canada. 2014. Manitoba moth species list and ranks as recommended by expert.

  • Grehan, John R. et al. 1995. Moths and Butterflies of Vermont (Lepidoptera): A Faunal Checklist. Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Vermont and Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, State of Vermont. Miscellaneous Publication 116. Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Bulletin No. 1.

  • Holland, W. J. 1903. The moth book. A guide to the moths of North America. Doubleday, Page & company, New York. 479 pp.

  • Jordan, M. 1998. Ecological effect of a large and severe summer wildfire in the Long Island dwarf pine barrens. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

  • Jordan, M. J., W. A. Patterson III, A. G. Windisch. 2003. Conceptual ecological models for the Long Island pitch pine barrens: implications for managing rare plant communities. Forest Ecology and Management 185, 151-168.

  • Kitching, I.J. and J.Cadiou. 2000. Hawkmoths of the world. An annotated and illustrated revisionary checklist (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). The Natural History Museum, London. 226 pp.

  • Little, S. 1979. Fire and plant succession in the New Jersey pine barrens. P. 297-313 in R. T. T. Forman, ed. Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape. Academic Press, Inc. Orlando, FL.

  • McGuinness, Hugh D. 2009. Moths of fire: a study of the macro-lepidoptera in burned and unburned plots at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Sarnoff Preserve in Flanders, Suffolk County, New York. 2006-2008. Report for the Long Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

  • McGuinness, Hugh. 2006. Overview of the 2005 Dwarf Pine Plains data.

  • Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University. Mississippi. http://mississippientomologicalmuseum.org.msstate.edu//index.html.

  • NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Data last updated August 2010)

  • North American Moth Photographers Group at the Mississippi Entomological Museum. No date. Mississippi State University, Mississippi. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/MainMenu.shtml

  • Opler, Paul A., Kelly Lotts, and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. (accessed May 2010).

  • Pohl, G.R.  J-F. Landry, B.C. Schmidt, J.D. Lafontaine, J.T. Troubridge, A.D. Macaulay, E.van Nieukerken, J.R. deWaard, J.J. Dombroskie, J. Klymko, V. Nazari and K. Stead. 2018. Annotated checklist of the moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) of Canada and Alaska. Pensoft Publishers. 580 pp.

  • Schweitzer, D. F. 2017. Current versus mid 20th century statuses of moths with big summer caterpillars (Saturniidae, Sphingidae, Datana) in nothern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. News of the Lepidopterists' Society 59 (3):134-141)

  • Schweitzer, Dale F. 1995. E-mail to Kathryn Schneider and Marilyn Jordan of June 6, 1995 regarding Sphinx gordius.

  • Schweitzer, Dale F. 1995. Memorandum to Skip Blanchard and Marilyn Jordan of June 6, 1995 regarding spring 1995 Long Island moth samples.

  • 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.

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