Subject: Parasites On Tomato Hornworm
Location: Tampa, Florida
September 22, 2013 5:17 pm
Dear What’s That Bug,
We are HUGE fans, for many years. Here is a great shot we though you’d enjoy! We sure enjoyed watching the bug show!
Signature: Bug Love, Ana & Cory
Hi Ana & Cory,
This is definitely a parasited Hornworm, and the parasites are Braconids, however, we do not believe this is either a Tomato Hornworm or a Tobacco Hornworm. The caudal horn does not resemble either species and the caterpillar appears to be feeding on some plant other than a member of the family Solanacea. Compare your caterpillar to the images of a Tomato Hornworm or Five Spotted Hakmoth on Sphingidae of the Americas, and to the photos of a Tobacco Hornworm or Carolina Sphinx also on Sphingidae of the Americas. Can you provide the name of the plant for us? That might help assist in the species identification for your caterpillar. Our best guess is that this might be the caterpillar of a Rustic Sphinx. Compare the texture on the caudal horn and the head of your individual to the images posted to Sphingidae of the Americas and to BugGuide.
Thank you so much for responding! I have to admit, that since I’m such a huge fan, I was on cloud nine all day from your nice response. Years ago, when I began college, I was curious about insects, and your site really inspired me to learn more. I learned so much from you. Now I’m a science teacher, and we play with bugs every chance we get, and my students are encouraged to catch them and display them (alive) in the classroom for a few days. You’ve never taught a lesson, until a giant katydid crawled on your (and your students’) arms! Cory is an environmental scientist and a lover of all “bugs” as well. He was also the photographer of this stunning shot.
After your help, we concur that it is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar. He/she was on a Beauty Berry, callicarpa americana, that is in my front yard. After research, the beauty berry is a rustic sphinx moth host plant. I can’t wait to share this with my students tomorrow. Unfortunately for the caterpillar (and the Braconids), it was eaten by a bird 🙁
Thanks again for your reply. We absolutely love what you do!
Ana & Cory
Hi again Ana & Cory,
Thank you for your inspirational email.