Subject: What type of catipillar?
Location: Burlington county New Jersey
August 7, 2014 11:01 am
I lived in NJ all my life and have never seen this type of caterpillar. Today I found 3 of them in my backyard. The largest one I found floating in my pool. Each one I found was dead. What type are they? Are there any concerns I should have as I have children and a dog running around in the yard. I don’t have any gardens.
Signature: Monica

Four Horned Sphinx

Four Horned Sphinx

Dear Monica,
This is a Four Horned Sphinx or Elm Sphinx,
Ceratomia amyntor, the caterpillar of a moth in the family Sphingidae.  The common name refers to the four horns behind the head of the caterpillar, and it ignores the caudal horn which is a trait shared with most caterpillars in the family.  We are very curious what might have cause the demise of three individuals in such a short period of time.  The Four Horned Sphinx is a harmless species, despite its somewhat fearsome appearance.  Perhaps you have a nearby elm tree that is serving as food for the Elm Sphinx as it is also called.  In addition to elm, according to the Sphingidae of the Amercias site, the caterpillars feed on “birch (Betula), basswood (Tilia), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and cherry (Prunus).”  Living Four Horned Sphinx caterpillars are much more attractive than dead ones, and as you can see from this image, the Four Horned Sphinx is very well camouflaged while feeding.

Location: Burlington County, New Jersey

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