Large, smooth, green caterpillar in Florida
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!
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.
October 16, 2008
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
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.
Jim Tuttle has confirmed the larvae are Erinnyis ello.
Update: 11 November 2008
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! 🙂
Thanks for updating us on the emergence of your adult Ello Sphinx.