What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Large, smooth, green caterpillar in Florida
Hello Bugman!
I hope you can help me. I found this lovely, large caterpillar on a silver buttonwood bush in my Florida yard. I live in Brevard County on the east coast. Two sites have suggested that it may be a Tantalus Moth, but I could not find photos of a Tantalus Moth caterpillar online or in any books to verify it. This picture shows the critter on the branch he was eating. Do you recognize this caterpillar? He is 3″ long, the size of my index finger. Thank you!
Donna Peters
Indialantic, FL

Fig Sphinx Caterpillar

Fig Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Donna,
We are nearly certain that this is the caterpillar of the Fig Sphinx, Pachylia ficus. This is a highly variable caterpillar. We have checked Bill Oehlke’s excellent website, and the coloration on your specimen somewhat resembles one on his site, but it is still different. We are going to copy Bill Oehlke on this response so he can verify that our identification is correct. If our identification is correct, then the silver buttonwood bush, Conocarpus erectus, would be a new host plant for the caterpillar which feeds on members of the genus Ficus, the figs. Bill Oehlke may also request permission to post your interesting color variation on his own website.

Thank you, so much, for following up with me. I have several silver buttonwoods, and I have poured over all of them looking for more caterpillars, but this guy seems to be it. One of our neighbors has a fig tree, which may be worth mentioning. I don’t know if it translated in the photos, but the darker shade on the caterpillar’s back is purplish. Quite lovely!
Again, thank you.
Donna Peters

October 16, 2008
Daniel,
Here is reply I sent to Donna regarding “Pachylia ficus”
I am going to ask Jim Tuttle for his opinion. I wil get back to you and to Donna if I get an id from Jim

Hi Donna,
I am pretty sure the larvae are of one of the Erinnyis species, probably Erinnyis ello, possibly Erinnyis alope. I wil try for a second opinion and get back to you.
I am almost positive they are not Pachylia ficus.
Bill Oehlke

Daniel,
Jim Tuttle has confirmed the larvae are Erinnyis ello.
Bill Oehlke

Update: 11 November 2008
Hi Bill,
The caterpillar you identified for me as Erinnyis ello emerged today and was released this evening. I have attached a photo. It vibrated it’s wings on the potted plant for about 5 minutes, then flew away over the house. My 7 year old son loved it. Thanks again! 🙂
Donna Peters

Ello Sphinx

Ello Sphinx

Hi Donna,
Thanks for updating us on the emergence of your adult Ello Sphinx.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

2 Responses to Ello Sphinx Caterpillar and Emerged Adult

  1. lozanobrown says:

    I just found this same caterpillar on my Silver Buttonwood too. It was leaving droppings that were leaving rusty brown stains in my pool/hot tub. It took 2 days to figure out what was leaving the droppings. Today I found the Erinnyis ello feasting on the plant above the edge of the hot tub. I politely moved him to another spot! So, yes Conocarpus erectus, could be a host plant for the caterpillar. I only found one as well, but have seen the same caterpillar on other plants in my yard.

  2. Rick Newman says:

    FYI, I just found one on my Green Buttonwood in Boca Raton, FL so perhaps both of the Conocarpus erectus varieties are host plants in South Florida.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *