Probably Waved Sphinx Caterpillar

4-5 inch worm/caterpillar
September 10, 2009
This was found in my sisters yard and we were just wondering what it was. We have never seen anything like this around here before. dont know how well the pictures will come out but its green with what looks like some reddish brown triangle shapes all along its back. it has very tiny spikes on its head and what looks like a hook that is very hard on the opposite end of it. its about 4-5 inches long and about the thickness of a cigar. when it was picked up with a plastic spoon it tried to stab the spoon with the “hook”. so maybe a little aggressive.
Cristin Morvant
Louisiana, USA

Waved Sphinx Caterpillar
Waved Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Cristin,
This is a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, known as a Hornworm.  It is most likely a Waved Sphinx, Ceratomia undulosa.  The green caterpillar, according to Bill Oehlke, takes on a rosy hue prior to pupation.

50 thoughts on “Probably Waved Sphinx Caterpillar”

  1. I rescued one of these this morning from a bird. The caterpillar is not harmed- however Bill Oehlke’s website indicates that they shouldn’t be this far west. I’m in Phoenix, AZ. Perhaps it is anothertype of Sphinx moth caterpillar?
    How can I send an image?
    Thanks,
    Sindi Westberg

    Reply
        • HUGE is an understatement! I’m in the Morongo High Desert, CA, and saw this nasty thing for the first time today. I moved to a relatively rural area last year but finding several “critters” are here and totally new to me. I’ve always lived in urban/suburban areas. This is a whole new world for me. I am not fond of these caterpillars. I read that one year the ground was so thick with them that one could not take a step without stepping on one. EW!

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          • Waved Sphinx Caterpillars do not appear in great numbers. You are confusing a solitary species with the occasional appearance of great numbers of Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars in desert areas. With all the desert super bloom, we are expecting a spike in caterpillar populations this year.

          • You are correct about the Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars. This is the one I have been seeing. I don’t mean to offend you, or anyone, regarding this, or any other caterpillar. I have a phobia and there are so prolific here.

            I appreciate you correcting me! Btw, what is the gestation period of these caterpillars? Meaning, when should I expect the caterpillars to be gone and see them in moth form? Wasn’t really sure how to word this but I’m sure you know what I mean,

            Thanks kindly!

          • You are correct about the Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars. This is the one I have been seeing. I don’t mean to offend you, or anyone, regarding this, or any other caterpillar. I have a phobia and there are so prolific here.

            I appreciate you correcting me! Btw, what is the gestation period of these caterpillars? Meaning, when should I expect the caterpillars to be gone and see them in moth form? Wasn’t really sure how to word this but I’m sure you know what I mean,

            Thanks kindly!

  2. We also found one that appears to be a Waved Sphinx on 10/11/09 in Mesa, AZ. About 4 inches long with the same brownish, diagonal markings as the one shown by Cristin Morvant. We’re trying to find the right food for it. Any ideas? And how can we send an image?
    Thanks,
    Mark and Marily Smith

    Reply
    • I found what I think is one in my yard on a plum tree. Only three have been recorded in Montana, but nothing else has five inch larvae!

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  3. Dog was barking like crazy this morning and i went out back to see what he was going nuts over and it was one of these. I live in Peoria (75th ave & cactus). he He couldn’t get it through the pool fence so i just left it there. Any reason to be worried about it?

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  4. found one in the freshly cut grass this evening. July 19, 2015. In Onoway, Alberta, Canada. Probably shouldn’t be this far north or west? Have a couple of pictures of you want.

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  5. I found one upside our apartment in Mesa az. 11/21/15. My kids actually found it.. Are they venomous? It’s in a Rubbermaid container for the moment….

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  6. Found one just now at my front door in Tucxon. Crazy! I moved it to a rockpile with some vegetation. I’ve always seen the sphinx moth at dusk, but this is the first caterpillar.

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  7. Found my dogs playing with one tonight, My research indicates that on the surface this is a harmless little creature but what if it was eaten by a dog!?

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  8. I found one this morning that was all reddish orange on top and green on the belly. I think it jabbed my dog last night with its spike. My dog had an allergic reaction her face swelled up and she got hives all over her body. Really scared us. Do you think it could be the culprit? We are in Chandler, AZ

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  9. Our kitty keeps bringing them home once in a while. He plays with them for a while and then leaves them alone. They all survived and I’m glad he doesn’t eat them. We live in Scottsdale, AZ.

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  10. We had one in the house and thought the dog brought it in. After researching it ( because it was so huge and freaked us out) and finding it isn’t found in Arizona, (Phoenix…75th Ave and Deer Valley) I assumed it possibly made it in with fruit from the store. That was not a comforting thought for my son. It just didn’t look like it could have been any other caterpillar.

    Reply
    • According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed preferentially on leaves of ash (Fraxinus spp.), especially Green Ash (F. pennsylvanica) in Canada, but also feed on fringetree (Chionanthus spp.), hawthorn (Crataegus), lilac (Syringa), oak (Quercus), privet (Ligustrum), and other woody plants,” none of which are sold as produce, so we think it is highly unlikely a Waved Sphinx Caterpillar came into your home via the grocery store. According to Sphingidae of the Americas, there are many related species found in Arizona, and we feel it is much more likely that you misidentified the species.

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  11. Found one in Green Valley AZ south of Tucson this morning. Dog was playing with it. Biggest Caterpillar I have ever seen. Thanks to this site for helping me identify it!

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  12. 49th ave and bell glendae az my dog had one rescued and traped in a jar for son to see then off to the BUTTERFLY MUSEUM. For the rest of the children to enjoy. But i am curious what it will look like once its a butterfly.

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  13. I picked up one of these today while trimming my plants. After doing the freaky dance I got some great pictures.
    We are in Montreal QC

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  14. I picked up one of these today while trimming my plants. After doing the freaky dance I got some great pictures.
    We are in Montreal QC

    Reply
  15. I found one a few minutes ago (07/23/18) crossing my neighbors driveway. i live in wisconsin. Are the waved sphynx even found here? first time i have ever seen on.

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  16. Just found one of these on our doorstep in Oracle, AZ. Will move it to the state lands. Also found a dead waved sphynx moth on our door step two weeks ago.

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  17. One just crawled across my patio in Prescott Valley, Arizona. First one I’ve ever seen. Looks like the waved Sphinx caterpillar.

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  18. I’ll wack any bug or flying insect (not pollinators) but I’m not a “hunter” type of person, so I am reluctant to kill him, because he (she?) is so big. What’s the “right” thing to do? I’m in eastern Alberta Canada.

    Reply

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