Location: Honolulu Hawaii
January 21, 2011 7:04 pm
What’s the name of this caterpillar or the butterfly/moth that it will turn into? Never seen one like it in Hawaii. It was about 3inches long and cruising down a hiking road.
We actually thought this was going to be an easy identification because this caterpillar is so distinctive and because we know that it it a Hornworm in the family Sphingidae. The Sphingidae of the Americas website allows us to search by state, and we know Hawaii does not have many species, but alas, several of species and subspecies listed in Hawaii are without photos. Bill Oehlke who authors the website notes: “Manduca blackburni, Tinostoma smaragditis, Hyles calida calida, Hyles calida hawaiiensis, Hyles wilsoni perkinsi and Hyles wilsoni wilsoni are endemic species/subspecies (found only on Hawaii).” Your caterpillar reminds us of members of the the genus Hyles of which there are several species and subspecies in Hawaii, though we would not dismiss the possibility that it might be an unusual color variation of the caterpillar of the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth, Agrius cingulata, which is also found on Hawaii. You can note the similarities to the caterpillar of Hyles lineata on the Sphingidae of the Americas website. The more we ponder this, we are leaning toward this being an unusual color variation of the caterpillar of the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth, Agrius cingulata, because of the markings on the head. The examples of the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth Caterpillar on the Sphingidae of the Americas website have decidedly different colors and markings than your individual, but that is still our best guess. We are going to enlist the assistance of Bill Oehlke on this query by copying him on our reply. We suspect he may request permission to post your photo to his website as well.
confirmation from Bill Oehlke
You are correct. It is the highly variable Agrius cingulata.