Currently viewing the category: "Hornworms"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars in Joshua Tree National Park
Geographic location of the bug:  Joshua Tree National Park, California
Date: 04/05/2019
Time: 8:15 AM PDT
Daniel took a much needed break from the office on Thursday to drive to Joshua Tree National Park with Sharon to view the superbloom phenomenon.  At the Cottonwood Springs entrance to the park, the wild flowers were most spectacular, and it seemed that every plant had at least one Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar feeding on the vegetation.  Sharon asked why there were so many.  In years with substantial precipitation falling in the desert, there is an increase in vegetation, and that provided more food for more caterpillars that in turn provide more food for birds, rodents and other insectivores.  Periodically, there are population explosions of Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars.  Though most of the caterpillars were dark, we were still able to locate a few lighter individuals.

Whitelined Sphinx Cateprillars: Dark and Light forms.

Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars: Dark form

Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar: Light form


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Spotted caterpillar from Ecuador
Geographic location of the bug:  Jorupe Reserve, near Macará, Loja, Ecuador (near the Peruvian border)
Date: 04/02/2019
Time: 11:47 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I photographed this caterpillar (2-3 inches long) at the Jorupe Reserve on March 9.  The size and pattern of the eye-spots on the side look similar to those on some Eumorpha caterpillars, but I haven’t found a match to this.
How you want your letter signed:  David

Eumorpha Caterpillar

Dear David,
This is a beautiful Caterpillar, and because of its resemblance to the North American Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar and Pandorus Sphinx Caterpillar, we are quite confident it is also a member of the genus
Eumorpha.  Caterpillars of moths in the family Sphingidae are commonly called Hornworms because most members of the family have caudal horns.  Members of the genus Eumorpha frequently lose their caudal horns during the molting process.  We could not find any matching images on Sphingidae of the Americas, but many species on the site are lacking images of the caterpillars.  We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide a species identification.  We hope you will allow Bill to post your image to his site if he is able to assist.

Bill Oehlke Responds.
I sent image to Jean Haxaire and he indicates it is Eumorpha triangulum, but the plant it is on in the photo is not its natural host.
The larvae display several different colour morphs.

Ed. Note:  More information on Eumorpha triangulum can be found on Sphingidae of the Americas.

Excellent information.  Thanks very much.
(I have another one that I’ll send along shortly.)
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Giant caterpillar burrowing under dead leaves
Geographic location of the bug:  Miami, florida
Date: 03/22/2019
Time: 03:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there! My students and I found this giant caterpillar traveling down a tree trunk and o haven’t been able to identify it. It’s about 5-6” in length and after it reached the ground it burrowed under th dead leaves in the ground and stayed there.
How you want your letter signed:  Nadia in miami

Fig Sphinx

Dear Nadia,
This large caterpillar is a Fig Sphinx,
Pachylia ficus, and it was on the ground searching for a place to pupate among the leaf litter.  There must be a fig tree near the sighting.

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Subject:  Ohhhh
Geographic location of the bug:  ORAN PARK nsw
Date: 03/03/2019
Time: 06:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hay bug man. I’m hoping you can tell me what sort of bug this guy or gal is. Found it out the back today and have never screen one before
How you want your letter signed:  Curious mummy

Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Curious Mummy,
This is a Hornworm, the larva of a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae.  We are confident it is the Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar which is pictured on Butterfly House and on FlickR.  Do you have a gardenia growing near the sighting?

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Horn worm
Geographic location of the bug:  Waiotahe Valley, Bay of Plenty
Date: 02/06/2019
Time: 05:15 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there.
What do they eat? Are they harmful? Found on ex forestry block!
How you want your letter signed:  Gertie

Hornworm of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth

Dear Gertie,
This is a Hornworm, the larva of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae.   Its color, markings and the look of its horn lead us to believe this is the larva of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth,
Agrius convolvuli, which is pictured on New Zealand Invertebrates where it states:  “Favoured host plants in NZ are the bindweed and kumara.”  Butterfly House also provides a list of food plants.

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Subject:  Caterpillar Identification
Geographic location of the bug:  Canary Islands
Date: 01/31/2019
Time: 03:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello Bugman,
I was wondering you could identify the caterpillar in the attached picture? A person that I know found several of them on a plant in Indiana. I tried to identify it on my own but with no luck. I thought it was some sort of hawk moth larva.
Thank you,
How you want your letter signed:  Emma

Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Emma,
This is a very colorful Whitelined Sphinx, a highly variable caterpillar when it comes to markings and coloration.  Here is a BugGuide image that greatly resembles your individual.

Correction:  Thanks to a comment from frequent contributor on Sphingidae submissions, Bostjan Dvorak, we now agree that this is the caterpillar of the related Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae, and according to BugGuide:  “Introduced from Europe since the 1960s to combat leafy spurge.”  Sphingidae of the Americas does not list the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth from Indiana, but BugGuide does list it in nearby Michigan, leading us to speculate that the range of the introduced moth is increasing with the spread of Leafy Spurge.

Update: Hello Daniel Marlos,
Thank you very much for the feedback. That’s definitely interesting. I am just confused because although this specimen looks pretty much exactly like the Spurge caterpillars it lacks the double spots found on the side of Spurge caterpillars. Also, the big spots are filled in with color not just white. Could it be perhaps a variable pattern?
I have been told by the person who took the photo that this caterpillar was found with several other of these same types of caterpillars. Not that this piece of information helps but perhaps shows that it’s not just an anomaly?.
Thank you again for taking the time to identify this caterpillar.
~ Emma

Hi Again Emma,
There is often much variation between individuals of the same species.  Often knowing the plant upon which an insect was feeding is a tremendous clue in determining identity.  The greatest evidence we have that this is a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar was provided in the comment sent by Bostjan where he identified the plant upon which the individual was feeding as Spurge in the genus
Euphorbia.  That food plant would negate our original supposition that this might be a very colorful Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar.

CORRECTION:  February 25, 2019
Hi Daniel,
I made a mistake in the location of the caterpillar we thought was a leafy spurge moth, which clears up this confusing identification. This caterpillar was found on Gran Canaria Island, Spain which is off the coast of NW Africa. It is actually the Barbary spurge hawkmoth (Hyles tithymali).

Thanks for the update Emma.  We aren’t going to ask how the Canary Islands were confused with Indiana.  We have images of the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar in our archives.

Haha, yeah definitely an odd switch up. My dad showed me the picture that his friend had taken. He didn’t ask his friend where he took it and assumed he took it in Indiana. I asked my dad again since the identification didn’t quite make sense and that’s where I got the true location which makes so much more sense. Thank you!

At least we got the genus correct originally.


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination