Subject: Caterpillar Found
Location: Kaneohe, Hawaii
November 2, 2015 4:45 pm
Hi. I’m a preschool teacher in Kaneohe, Hawaii. It rains often here and it a tropical savannah climate. We found this little guy crawling on our sidewalk. I think it probably was eating a hibiscus plant. It was about 6 inches at its longest, has a little tail, and no hair.
Signature: Ms. Lee’s Class
Dear Ms. Lee’s Class,
We believe we have correctly identified this Hornworm from the family Sphingidae as the larval form of the Privet Hawk Moth, Psilogramma menephron, based on images posted to the Sphingidae of the Americas site where it states: “The Caterpillar is an agricultural pest on Olive trees (Olea europaea, OLEACEAE), but is perhaps most often found in suburbia on Privet (Ligustrum vulgare, OLEACEAE ), Jasmine (Jasminum officinale, OLEACEAE ), and Australian Native Olive (Olea paniculata, OLEACEAE), but also feeds on other plants in the families: OLEACEAE and BIGNONIACEAE.” The site also states: “Many Sphingidae larvae will darken (reddish brown to brown) considerably when they are ready to pupate, especially if they are going into a diapausing state” and finding it on the ground indicates it was probably getting ready to dig beneath the surface and pupate, so it will likely emerge in the spring. You can try keeping it in a terrarium with some dirt and if you are lucky, your class will be treated to the metamorphosis process.
Thank you so much for your response. We placed out hornworm in a large jar with dirt last Monday and it immediately dug itself underground. Because we are in a tropical climate, and we do not have a real winter, when do you think we can expect it to emerge, and what steps can we take to take good care of it?
Hello again Ms. Lee,
You should get that Privet Hornworm out of the jar. A more open container, like a cage or a terrarium with a screen top would be much better as a pupal habitat. You can spray the top of the soil with water if it appears to be drying out. A crammed jar is not the best place for the adult Privet Hawkmoth to emerge, especially if you do not notice it shortly after digging to the surface. We would guess an emergence in about six weeks.