Sphinx moth caterpillar in October?
Location: Susquehanna Valley, PA
October 3, 2010 7:54 pm
I work at a large greenhouse, so I see quite a few critters indoors and out. It’s always fun to try identifying bugs I don’t recognize and your website has come in handy many times. Whenever a coworker asks me about a bug, I always point them to your site first.
Although I’m familiar with tobacco and tomato hornworms, the one that I found today was neither. Perusing your site, I believe it’s a Whitelined Sphinx Moth caterpillar. I was surprised to find this over 3” long caterpillar crawling across the outside thruway, away from the fields and plants, especially since I rarely see any this late in the year. Also, aren’t these typically found in desert locales? I had time to snap one shot with my phone before making sure the caterpillar got out of harm’s way before it was run over.
I hope my guess is correct. Thanks for all the great info here!
Your identification of the Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar, Hyles lineata, is correct. The deserts of the Southwest are known for seasonal population explosions of these caterpillars when weather conditions and food requirements are ideal, but this is also the widest ranging Sphinx Moth in North America. Because the caterpillars can be so plentiful, they were an important food for the indigenous people of the southwest. The Whitelined Sphinx can be found in all 48 lower states as well as Mexico and Canada. The Data page on BugGuide shows the distribution of reports to that site, and Bill Oehlke’s website, Sphingidae of the Americas, has wonderful information on the species. The caterpillars will feed on a wide variety of plants including the greenhouse staple Fuschia.