Subject:  Huge caterpillar!
Geographic location of the bug:  Northern California
Date: 07/26/2019
Time: 03:09 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi,
I have never seen this large of a caterpillar ever, not in the great outdoors nor in a museum! It was happily munching on our green tomatoes. It was 3/4” thick and almost 3 inches long. Was incredible! Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks, Aimee

Tobacco Hornworm

Dear Aimee,
Have you been growing tomatoes for many years?  Most gardeners who grow tomatoes are familiar with the Tobacco Hornworm, the larva of the Carolina Sphinx,
Manduca sexta, which feeds on the leaves and occasionally fruit of tomatoes and other related plants.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for this! I have, but have never seen a caterpillar like this! 🙂 Are both moths and butterflies called “caterpillars” in this stage?
Thank you,
Hi again Aimee,
The larvae of both butterflies and moths are commonly called caterpillars, but some caterpillars have more specific names like the Hornworms of the family Sphingidae, the group to which your Tobacco Hornworm belongs, and that name refers to the caudal horn found on many members of the family.  After the caterpillar stage, both butterflies and moths have a pupal stage, commonly called a chrysalis for butterflies, and cocoon for a moth when the pupa is encased in a silken housing.  Generally speaking, the Caterpillars of moths are bigger than the caterpillars of butterflies, and some of the largest North American caterpillars are the Hickory Horned Devil and the Fig Sphinx caterpillar.  In Northern California, other large caterpillars you might encounter are the Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar and the Ceanothus Silkmoth Caterpillar.
Ah, I see, that is great to know. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it!
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Location: Northern California

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