What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

unknown larvae
Attached is a JPEG of a larvae, family Sphingidae I’m pretty sure, taken from a dying date palm in Melbourne, FL over the weekend just past. I’m unable to i.d. this critter and have been a lepidopterist most of my entire 55 years on this planet. The ag center people are stumped also. The palm itself was shot full of holes created by white grubs (maybe palm weevil larvae?). For all I know the white graubs are an earlier instar of the green guy whose photo is attached. At any rate I’m really curious to know what I have here and intend to try and raise the larvae to adulthood. I’m setting out now for some date palm fronds. Hope to hear back from you.
Best Regards & Merry Christmas,
Jim Culberson

Wow Jim,
We can’t believe a lepidopterist is actually coming to us for advice. We are not positive, but we believe this to be the larva of a Ficus or Fig Sphinx, Pachylia ficus. Is there a Ficus tree near the palm? The larvae of the Fig Sphinx have at least 4 different color morphs, and this one is different from all we have seen. I can’t wait to get home from work to do additional research and to post it to the site. If you do any additional web research and can substantiate our suspicions, please let us know.
Daniel and Lisa Anne

Hi Daniel and Lisa Anne, Thanks very much for your email. Nope, no ficus trees anywhere near the date palm, Phoenix canariensis, that the larvae was found on. I should say found in since the man who cut the dying palm down found dozens of the larvae in the fibrous material at the base of the fronds. The fronds were stripped I’m told. I would bet by this species of Sphingid larvae. If this thing turns out to be an exotic species Florida could have a real problem on its hands. I hope that y`all have better luck than I in identifying the creature. It is ensconced now in my larvae raising container, a terrarium with a sreen lid, with a large piece of date palm frond. It hasn’t started chomping on the date palm frond yet though. I am an amateur lepidopterist in that it isn’t my profession. I raise various species in my yard, have been all over the world collecting specimens, take photos mostly now since I’ve collected just about all the U.S. species. My undergraduate degree was in marine biology and graduate work in coral reef ecology, all back in the early seventies. I own a publishing business and an ad agency. No work for marine biologists back in the seventies.
Best Regards,
Jim Culberson

Hi again Jim,
We really want to get to the bottom of this. Please keep us updated and we would love to have a photo of the adult if it survives. We still think this must be one of the Dilophonotini tribe and believe the answer can be found on Bill Oehlke’s wonderful site.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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