Unknown giant caterpillar
Location: Pinecrest, Miami-Dade County, FL
August 23, 2010 4:55 pm
Can you identify this caterpillar? Today (Aug. 23, 2010) it was on our chain link fence (sorry no host plant to help!). It is about 5 inches long. The colors are not exactly true in the photo. What looks to be yellow is really more green/chartruse. We’ve searched books and the web and are stumped (not an easy admission for 2 biologists).
Your caterpillar is a Hornworm in the family Sphingidae, more specifically, a Tetrio Sphinx Caterpillar, Pseudosphinx tetrio. You may read about the Tetrio Sphinx on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website. Bill writes: “The Tetrio Sphinx Moth, Pseudosphinx tetrio (wingspan: 5 – 5 1/2 inches (12.7 – 14 cm) females larger than males), flies throughout tropical and subtropical American lowlands. It is very common in Guadeloupe and Martinique, but poorly attracted by light.
Generally the moth is seen from southern Brazil: Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais (LV); Argentina: Salta, Tucuman; etc., north through Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies to south Florida, southern Mississippi, Texas, and southern Arizona.” The caterpillars feed on the leaves of several plants including Frangipani (Plumieria rubra)[sic]. See the Plumeria Society of America website.
Thank you, Daniel, for your very fast response. Interesting that we have several frangipani, a non-native, about 20-30 feet away from where we found the critter. We’ll take a good look at the trees when the sun comes up.