Hornworm of the Arrow Sphinx

February 20, 2014 2:17 am
We have had five HUGE caterpillars in our Hibiscus Tree, the largest measuring 12cm and as thick as a man’s thumb. Please identify them for us.
Signature: Desmond

Arrow Sphinx Hornworm
Arrow Sphinx Hornworm

Dear Desmond,
Several years ago we received similar images from South Africa and we were puzzled.  This caterpillar has a caudal horn which would indicate the Sphinx Moth family Sphingidae, but the spines on the body are more consistent with a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in the family Saturniidae.  We eventually learned that this is the caterpillar of an Arrow Sphinx
Lophostethus dumolinii.  INaturalist which pictures the adult moth indicates “It is known from most habitats, except desert and high mountains throughout the Ethiopian Region, excluding Madagascar and the Cape in South Africa.”  Your Cape sighting might be evidence of a range expansion, perhaps due to global climate changes.  Hibiscus is also listed as a food plant for the caterpillar.  Additional images of the caterpillar can be found on ISpot.  We are copying Bill Oehlke who assisted in the identification several years ago and we suspect he may request permission to post your photo on his own website.

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