What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Unknown caterpillars
Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 4:20 AM
I thought I picked two brown caterpillars with fake eyes from my mother’s penta plant in Sun City Florida yesterday. When I opened the jar to photograph them this morning, I had two browns and two greens, all with false eyes. I never kill bugs without knowing what they are but I can’t find these in my caterpillar book.
V Parsons
Central Florida

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar:  Brown Morph

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar: Brown Morph

Dear V,
Both the green caterpillars and the brown caterpillars are the same species.  The Tersa Sphinx, like many other Sphinx Moths, have caterpillars in different colors.  These different morphs probably aid in the survival of the species.  Predators that notice the brown caterpillars may not notice the green individuals just inches away.  To see images of the adult moth and to read more about the Tersa Sphinx, Xylophanes tersa, you can search Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar:  Green Morph

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar: Green Morph

Thank you so much! I gave the caterpillars to a friend with a lot of penta and a six-year-old grandaughter who loves bugs — she’ll take good care of them :)

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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14 Responses to Tersa Sphinx Caterpillars

  1. woodland elf says:

    I live in middle Tennessee and just found three of these caterpillars on some of my pentas plants. Two of them are gray and one is green. They are amazing looking. This is the first time that I have found this species in my garden and I look forward to seeing the moths appear.

  2. Carrie Jahn says:

    Are these caterpillars poisonous?

  3. tony says:

    Can they sting you and if so do they lose their stinger?

  4. Luba says:

    What is the prevention that the caterpillars won’t come back? Where are they comming from?

  5. Sabina says:

    I saw a hot pink caterpillar that looks similar, but the 5 “eyes” on the sides were all white with one small dot of black or brown. There was also one brown “eye” with a white outline around it on the top center of its end. Could this be the same caterpillar, just in a different stage of metamorphosis ?


  6. Robyn says:

    I was wondering what the bug was that was eating my Pentas. Interesting that they are here in Queensland Australia! I have often seen the Sphinx moth at dusk.

  7. Judith Riddell says:

    Last night I went to bed with a beautiful penta and this morning it has been eaten to stubs. Found both brown and green Sphinx larva on my plant. Will they move on to some other type of plant and destroy those as well or will they remain on the stubs and spin a cocoon? Don’t want to destroy – are they good for the garden? Will my penta come back while they are in cocoon form?

    • bugman says:

      They will not spread to other plants as they are very specific about their diet. They will pupate underground.

  8. Jeannie says:

    If the tersa sphinx stick a dog with the stinger that comes out of its spots and on its tail can it hurt the dog in a bad way.

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