Subject:  Identifying this grub or caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Date: 06/16/2019
Time: 09:52 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello,
Can you tell me what type of grub or caterpillar this is? It is bright green, red/ purple and white with a spiral
‘tail’. Around 3 inches long.
How you want your letter signed:  Prema

Hornworm:  Sphinx leucopheata

Dear Prema,
This image is positively gorgeous.  It is such a lovely study in subtle green colors and patterns.  This is a Hornworm, the larva of a Hawk Moth or Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae, but we are not certain of the species.  We are posting it as unidentified as we continue to research the species.  Perhaps Bostjan will notice the posting and provide an identification.

Update:  This looks to us like it might be Manduca hannibal hannibal, which is pictured on Sphingidae of the Americas.  When Daniel returns to the office, he will contact Bill Oehlke for his opinion.

Thanks so much, Daniel!
I have it out there to a few naturalists here on Lake Atitlan.
I will let you know if I find out anything.

We would love to hear what you find out Prema.  Do you by chance know the plant upon which it was feeding?

Sphinx leucopheata image by Prema

Good Morning Daniel,
I found it on the pathway near our house in Paxanax, Santa Cruz la Laguna, Lake Atitlan. Hence the one photo of it on the stone path and then the second one on the leaf. We moved it off the path unto the side where there were plants.

Hello Bostjan and Daniel,
Thanks so much for the information about this beautiful caterpillar! I will share it with my friends here at the Lake. I have to say that the photos have stirred up quite a fuss and people are anxious to know what species it is.
My friend and I found it on the pathway near our house in Paxanax, Santa Cruz la Laguna, Lake Atitlan. Hence the one photo of it on the stone path and then the second one on the leaf. We moved it off the path unto the side where there were plants away from any potential harm.
I will be in touch if I see this beauty again.
If you ever come to Lake Atitlan please contact me. We have many beautiful and amazing insects here 🙂
Warm regards,

Update with Request:  June 20, 2019
Hello again Prema.  Dr. Bostjan Dvorak just submitted a sketch of this Hornworm species he made in 2016 and we have posted it.  We have one additional request.  Bill Oehlke maintains an excellent website called Sphingidae of the Americas and he frequently assists us with identifications.  He has an image of an adult Sphinx leucopheata on Sphingidae of the Americas, but he has no images of the larvae.  When Daniel returns to the WTB? office on Friday (he is currently on holiday in Ohio) he would like permission to submit your awesome images so he can provide his readership with documentation of the caterpillar.

Good Morning Daniel,
Absolutely! Big thanks to the team at WTB and your colleagues for all the work you do on the planet.
Have a great day!

Location: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

4 Responses to Hornworm from Guatemala: Sphinx leucopheata:

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Dear Daniel, dear Prema,

    what a wonderful and detailed picture of a Sphinx leucopheata – caterpillar! This is the third record known to me, and I didn’t know it also lives in Guatemala. – This species is seldom found in larval stage, and a few years ago, I had puzzled for quite some time about the caterpillar’s origin, untill I published a short paper about “Three difficult to define neotropic hawkmoth species’ caterpillars” (in EZ 2016) – and then read the comment on it by Ian Kitching on his website, where this species (as the only one among them) could be defined as Sphinx leucopheata. The photos I had referred to were taken by J. Dodson and J.C.K. Morales, on two places in Mexico between 2010 and 2013, and I pictured a sketch of them. Premas photo is even more detailed, showing the hairy-tuberculous surface of the horn, which is curved in an unusual, very distinct way in this species. The colours are generally similar to those of other Sphinx-genus members, but the central dorsal stripe is a peculiarity again. – On which plant or place did You find this gorgeous animal?

    Great Thanks for sharing and best wishes,

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for the detailed comment Bostjan. As we are unsure if Prema will check for comments, we will forward your response to her.

  2. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Dear Prema, dear Daniel,

    Thank You very much. I posted my sketch from 2016, but had some problems wih transforming to “jpg”-type. You will eventually recognize the plant due to the leave-shape. It is really a wonderful animal – in a wonderful nature. Thanks so much for Your kind invitation! – I have to mention that Your country is my teacher Prof. Emmerich Weisshar’s favourite research area; he wrote many books about the Mayan languages.

    Best wishes and a great Corpus Christi day,

    • bugman says:

      Thanks much Bostjan,
      At first I didn’t understand your comment, until I realized you submitted an image of your sketch. I will be posting it momentarily and linking to the camera image submitted by Prema.

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