Rustic Sphinx Moth: Essential Facts Simplified

The Rustic Sphinx Moth, scientifically known as Manduca rustica, is a fascinating creature that belongs to the Sphingidae family. These moths are nocturnal and often referred to as hawkmoths due to their large size and nightly feeding habits. Their caterpillars, on the other hand, are famous for their horn-shaped protuberance and are called hornworms source.

As you delve into the world of Rustic Sphinx Moths, you’ll discover their interesting life cycle and unique characteristics. For instance, they have a wingspan varying from 3.5 to almost 6 inches, and their mottled and zig-zagged patterns with black, white, or dark brown markings make them easily recognizable source.

Keep reading to explore various aspects of the Rustic Sphinx Moth, including its habitat, preferred host plants, and the key role it plays in the ecosystem. By understanding this intricate creature, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the incredible biodiversity that exists in nature.

Characteristics of Rustic Sphinx Moth

Size and Color

The Rustic Sphinx Moth, scientifically known as Manduca rustica, is a moderately large moth with a wingspan ranging from 3.5 to almost 6 inches. Adult moths display an interesting combination of colors on their bodies. They are mottled and zig-zagged with black and white or very dark brown and white markings, except for three purple-black spots lined with yellow on each side of the abdomen.

Proboscis and Abdomen

Sphinx moths, including the Rustic Sphinx, have a unique feature called a proboscis, which functions like a long mouth tube or “tongue.” They use this long proboscis to feed on nectar from flowers while hovering in flight. Their abdomens are elongated and pointed, which enables them to maintain balance during their impressive hovering abilities.

Wings and Wing Patterns

The Rustic Sphinx Moth’s wings are designed to facilitate its agile movements. The forewings are generally long and pointed, although some species have angled or irregular margins. The wing patterns consist of white scales and black lines, contributing to the moth’s distinct appearance. These contrasting patterns enable them to camouflage themselves effectively during the day while remaining unnoticed on tree trunks and branches.

In summary, the Rustic Sphinx Moth is a fascinating creature with distinguishing features such as its size, colors, and wing patterns. Its proboscis and abdomen play crucial roles in its feeding habits and overall agility. Understanding these characteristics will help you appreciate the beauty and complexity of these nocturnal wonders.

Life Cycle of Rustic Sphinx Moth


The life cycle of a Rustic Sphinx Moth (Manduca rustica) begins as an egg. These eggs are laid on the leaves of host plants, such as the ash tree. The eggs are small and usually white or yellow.


After hatching, the caterpillar (also called larva) emerges and starts feeding on the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillars of Rustic Sphinx Moths are called hornworms due to the horn-shaped protuberance on their posterior end. These caterpillars grow through several stages called instars and can be found in various colors such as green or blue, with additional white markings.

Some features of the Rustic Sphinx Moth caterpillar are:

  • A horn on the posterior end
  • Green or blue coloration
  • White markings

As the caterpillar grows and completes its instar stages, it seeks a suitable location for pupation. This usually involves burrowing into the soil to create a pupation chamber. The chamber has an arched top and a flat bottom.


Inside the pupation chamber, the caterpillar transforms into a pupa. The pupa is a resting stage in the life cycle, during which the caterpillar undergoes a metamorphosis. During this phase, the hornworm’s body starts to transform into an adult moth. The pupa is usually brown in color and can be found within the soil or leaf litter.

Adult Moth

After completing the pupal stage, a fully-formed adult Rustic Sphinx Moth emerges from its pupation chamber. The adult moths are moderately large, with a wing span ranging from 3 1/2 to almost 6 inches and heavy bodies. These moths are characterized by their mottled and zig-zagged patterns of black and white or very dark brown, which make them excellent nocturnal camouflage. As nocturnal creatures, Rustic Sphinx Moths are active during the night, feeding on nectar from a variety of night-blooming plants.

In summary, the life cycle of a Rustic Sphinx Moth consists of four main stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult moth. Each stage is marked by unique characteristics, changes in appearance, and essential actions taken by the organism to ensure its successful continuation through the cycle.

Habitat and Distribution

The Rustic Sphinx Moth (Manduca rustica) can be found in various regions throughout the Americas. They occur mainly in North America, including the United States, Mexico, and even reaching up to Southern Canada1. These moths also extend their range to Central and South America, making them quite widespread.

In the United States, their habitats stretch from Virginia to Texas and from Arizona to Southern Florida2. Rustic Sphinx Moths are also seen in Southern California, where they are known as flower maven moths3. These moths tend to favor areas with abundant flowering plants. They typically lay their eggs in the soil4.

As for their appearance, the Rustic Sphinx Moth has a reddish-brown color, allowing them to adapt well to their surroundings. They are related to hummingbird moths, and both have similar behavior and traits such as being nocturnal and visiting a variety of night-blooming flowers5.

In summary, the Rustic Sphinx Moth has a wide distribution, spanning from Canada to South America, with a preference for habitats abundant in flowering plants. Its reddish-brown color and relationship with the hummingbird moth make it a fascinating creature to learn more about.

Feeding and Host Plants

Caterpillar Diet

The Rustic Sphinx moth, also known as the Manduca rustica, starts its life as a caterpillar known as a hornworm. These hornworms have a unique diet mainly consisting of various host plants. Some of their preferred plant choices include ash, bignonia, jasmine, and ligustrum. You may identify Rustic Sphinx caterpillars by their yellow diagonal stripes and a horn-like protuberance on their posterior end.

  • Ash
  • Bignonia
  • Jasmine
  • Ligustrum

Adult Moth Diet

As the Rustic Sphinx matures, it transitions from its caterpillar hornworm stage into an adult moth. The adult moths have a different diet, feeding primarily on nectar from night-blooming flowers. Some examples of night-blooming flowers favored by the Rustic Sphinx moth are petunias, sesame, gardenia, and lantana.

Night-blooming flowers Adult Moth Feeding

Keeping the diets of both the caterpillar and adult moth stages in mind could be useful for those interested in observing or studying these fascinating creatures. Remember to provide appropriate host plants for the hornworm stage and available night-blooming flowers for the adult moths.

Rustic Sphinx Moth and Pollination

The Rustic Sphinx Moth, or Manduca rustica, is a fascinating creature known for its role in pollination. Like hummingbirds, these moths contribute to the pollination process by visiting various night-blooming flowers.

Rustic Sphinx Moths have a unique appearance, which includes a forewing that is mottled and zig-zagged with black and white or very dark brown and white markings. These wings, spanning from 3.5 to nearly 6 inches, enable them to hover like hummingbirds while feeding at night.

As nocturnal pollinators, Rustic Sphinx Moths are attracted to specific plants with large, tubular flowers. When they visit these flowers to feed, they transfer pollen from one bloom to another, playing a crucial role in the plant’s reproductive cycle.

Some of the similarities and differences between Rustic Sphinx Moths and Hummingbirds are:

Rustic Sphinx Moth Hummingbird
Activity Time Nocturnal Diurnal
Pollination Preferences Night-blooming flowers Day-blooming flowers
Appearance Mottled and zig-zagged forewing Brightly colored feathers
Feeding Behavior Hovering while feeding Hovering while feeding

Here are some interesting features of the Rustic Sphinx Moth:

  • They belong to the Sphingidae family, commonly called hawkmoths.
  • The caterpillars are often referred to as hornworms due to the horn-shaped protuberance on their posterior end.

Remember, incorporating night-blooming flowers in your garden can attract these essential pollinators and help maintain a healthy ecosystem. So, the next time you spot a Rustic Sphinx Moth hovering in your garden, take a moment to appreciate their contribution to pollination and the environment.

Predators and Threats

The Rustic Sphinx Moth faces various predators and threats in its life cycle. Some common predators include:

  • Birds
  • Bats
  • Spiders

In addition to these predators, parasitic wasps such as the Cotesia congregata can pose a threat to the caterpillars. These wasps lay their eggs inside the hornworms, eventually killing the caterpillar as the wasp larvae emerge.

For example, tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms are common species related to the Rustic Sphinx Moth that might also be targeted by Cotesia congregata.

Hornworm Species Caterpillar Host Plant Typical Parasitic Wasp
Tomato hornworm Tomato plants Cotesia congregata
Tobacco hornworm Tobacco plants Cotesia congregata

To avoid threats, Rustic Sphinx Moth caterpillars use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings, making them difficult for predators to spot.

Role in Ecosystem

The Rustic Sphinx Moth (Manduca rustica) is a fascinating insect belonging to the Sphingidae family, also known as hawk moths. In this section, we’ll explore the role they play in the ecosystem.

Rustic Sphinx Moths are nocturnal creatures, which means they are active during the night. As they come out when the sun goes down, they play a critical role in the pollination of various night-blooming plant species. These plants rely on the moth’s long proboscis to reach their nectar, which in turn enables pollination as the moth moves from one flower to another.

Moths are quite important in various food chains, serving as a valuable food source for many predators like birds, bats, and even spiders. Their existence in an ecosystem indicates a healthy balance between plants, herbivores, and predators.

The Rustic Sphinx Moth is a native species found in different parts of North America. It has unique features such as:

  • Heavy body with long pointed abdomen
  • Mottled and zig-zagged patterns in black, white, or very dark brown
  • Moderately large size with a wingspan ranging from 3.5 to 6 inches

To sum it up, these fascinating creatures play a significant role in ecosystems by assisting in the pollination process, helping certain plants reproduce, and they also act as an important food source for various predators. Their presence is an indication of a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Scientific Classification

The Rustic Sphinx Moth, known by its scientific name Manduca rustica, is an intriguing species that belongs to the Sphingidae family. This family of moths, often called hawkmoths, falls under the order Lepidoptera in the class Insecta.

You’ll find the Rustic Sphinx Moth in various habitats, including gardens, forests, and meadows. It is known for its unique characteristics and behaviors, being nocturnal and attracted to night-blooming flowers.

Here are some quick facts about the Rustic Sphinx Moth’s classification:

  • Scientific Name: Manduca rustica
  • Common Name: Rustic Sphinx Moth
  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Class: Insecta

The caterpillars of the Rustic Sphinx Moth are often referred to as hornworms due to a horn-shaped protuberance on their posterior end. These hornworms go through several stages of development before transforming into an adult moth.

As a member of the Sphingidae family, the Rustic Sphinx Moth shares some common characteristics with other hawkmoths. These include:

  • Long, tapering forewings
  • Streamlined body shape
  • Nocturnal habits
  • High-speed flight capabilities
  • Long proboscis for nectar feeding

Now that you’re familiar with the scientific classification of the Rustic Sphinx Moth, keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures during your nighttime strolls in their natural habitats.

Interesting Facts

The Rustic Sphinx Moth (Manduca rustica) is a fascinating insect with some intriguing qualities. Let’s explore a few interesting facts about this moth.

These moths are known for their size – they are considered to be quite large^[1]^. Nocturnal by nature, they visit a wide variety of night-blooming plants, such as jasmine (Jasminum sp.)^[1]^.

Their appearance is distinct, with bold black and white patterns throughout their wings^[1]^. This striking contrast helps you easily identify them.

As for their diet, the Rustic Sphinx Moth is fond of Bignonia species^[1]^. You might find them visiting these plants in search of nourishment.

Interestingly, their caterpillars are often called hornworms due to the horn-shaped protuberance on their posterior end^[1]^.

In summary, the Rustic Sphinx Moth is a remarkable creature with captivating features and habits. With its large size, unique black and white pattern, and interesting dietary preferences, it stands out amongst other moths in its family.







Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Rustic Sphinx


Rustic Sphinx Moth
Hi there!
I got this great shot of what I believe to be a Rustic Sphinx Moth. It was feeding at "near dark" on a ginger flower in Baton Rouge, LA, 09/10/2005. It was incredible! The tongue must be 6 inches long.

Hi Robin,
This is a wonderful image of a Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica. These are very large moths. The tongue, or more properly, the proboscis, is long and coiled and probably does approach six inches in length.

Letter 2 – Rustic Sphinx


good morning from Georgia! I have a moth photos/questions please…
I love your site! Its so interesting, informative, and well-organized! Definitely going to be a ‘recommend’ on my web-page design classes’ best sites list! (you can get awards and recognition for having a well organized, user friendly website). I digress I have attached a picture of what I believe may be a really large Rustic Sphinx Metamorphosis. Other folks have emailed you pictures of this moth but from those (and mine); I noticed that they seem to have an odd affinity for ‘brick’ surfaces during the day. Our office has plenty of wooded area for this moth to have been in but he/she was right by our side door all day long. Hope you don’t mind the perspective shot with the quarter so you can see the moth’s size. By the way, is it true that the large green and rust colored Luna moth’s don’t have mouths? That they just live a short time to mate and die? I have several shots of them at gas stations here in Georgia. If you’d like any of them let me know…if not I’m more than happy with an answer to any of my questions. Thank you! Again, you have a wonderful website!!

Hi Kate,
Thank you for the compliments. We got another Rustic Sphinx photo yesterday, so we have decided to post your image in case there are other people out there who need an identification. We are not sure about the Rustic Sphinx’s affinity to brick walls, though we image their coloration is an example of evolution and camouflage since the pattern resembles tree bark. You are correct. Luna Moths, along with other Giant Silkmoths or Saturnid Moths, do not feed as adults.

Letter 3 – Rustic Sphinx Moth


Big moth
Dear Bugman,
I was lucky enough to see my first Luna moth on May 31st of this year (I have some nice photos of that one also). However, I have no idea of what kind of moth is in this picture from 7-16-06. The marking almost make it appear to resemble a bat hanging upside down! It has been a fun summer since both the Luna moth and this one were on the side of my house. Any help identifying this moth would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Chris,
This is a Rustic Sphinx Moth. We have three pages devoted to this family Sphingidae.

Letter 4 – Rustic Sphinx


Rustic Sphinx Metamorphosis,taken in town of gilbert oct 2006
From george

Hi George,
We wish you had given us a bit more commentary on your beautiful Rustic Sphinx.

Letter 5 – Rustic Sphinx


Rustic Sphinx
Sorry, I forgot to attach the photo with the first email (I tried to stop it when I realized, but it might have sent); it should be attached now. I nearly stepped on this giant moth on my way back to my apartment from a meeting. I ran, grabbed my camera, and ran back; luckily, it was still there. Based on what else I’ve seen on the site, I’m guessing it’s a Rustic Sphinx? I set my finger in the photo as well for scaling purposes.
Grady Owen

Hi Grady,
Thanks so much for sending us your awesome image of a Rustic Sphinx.

Letter 6 – Rustic Sphinx


Hi Bugman,
This gorgeous moth paid us a visit this week. The photo is in color; the moth and wall are shades of white, black and gray. The moth is about three inches long. We live in mixed deciduous forest near a river near Manassas, VA. I see cecropia moths and luna moths frequently, but this is a new one to me. Thanks!
Nell Benton

Hi Nell,
This gorgeous study in gray tones is a Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica, one of the Sphinx or Hawkmoths.

Letter 7 – Rustic Sphinx from Dominican Republic


Photo from Dominican Republic
This guy was so spectacular, about 5 inches long and happily stayed with us all day. Love your site and would love to know what type of moth this is. Thanks

Hi Wendy,
Your moth is a Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica. According to Bill Oehlke, the Rustic Sphinx: “flies in warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests and second growth woodlands from Virginia to south Florida, west to Arkansas, Texas, southern New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California and Puerto Rico and Cuba, and then further south through Central America to Brazil : Mato Grosso (JvB), Para, Roraima; Bolivia and Uruguay.”

Letter 8 – Two Sphinx Moths: Virginia Creeper Sphinx and Rustic Sphinx


Sphinx Moths
August 13, 2009
Hello there! First of all, I love your site!
I just wanted to share these pics of what I believe are a Virginia Creeper Sphinx and Rustic Sphinx that I found at the gas station early this morning. Thankfully I always keep at least one of my cameras with me and was able to take these photos. Especially since I’ve never seen a Rustic before. It was pretty big! I tried to pick it up for a size comparison, but it fluttered around in my hand and then flew away.
D. Ashley
Minden, Louisiana.

Virginia Creeper Sphinx
Virginia Creeper Sphinx

Dear D.,
Thanks for sending us your two wonderful photographs of correctly identified Sphinx Moths.  The Virginia Creeper Sphinx is Darapsa myron, and you can read more about it on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.  The Rustic Sphinx is Manduca rustica and it can also be found on Bill Oehlke’s website.

Rustic Sphinx
Rustic Sphinx

Letter 9 – Rustic Sphinx: A Side and Flip Side


Rustic Sphinx
Thanks for helping me identify this Rustic Sphinx Moth that was on our back porch in North East Florida. We see lots of strange critters here, but this was the first one of these. I believe this one was in a state of metamorphosis too as it soon flew away. Pictures are of both sides.
Dave Jennings

Hi Dave,
Glad we could help and we are thrilled to have new photos of this beautiful moth, Manduca rustica.

Letter 10 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Big Caterpillar
We’ve looked all through the Luna moth pictures, and searched around the web, but haven’t found a picture just like the guy in this one. He is 5 inches long and living on a small beautyberry bush in our central Florida yard. The bush is currently flowering and he seems to prefer eating the flowers, with leaves as a side. So far he has stayed on one bush, so we’ve been able to take several photos. Very interesting critter as he seems to be aware of our movements even when we are 2-3 feet away. He will stop feeding and turn toward us, as if watching. Do you have any idea what it might be?
Karen and Denny

Hi Karen and Denny,
This appears to be a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica. According to the website link you provided, beautybush is in the Vervain family, and according to Bill Oehlke’s excellent website, the Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar feeds on plants in the Vervain family. We really like the classic “Sphinx” pose your caterpillar has assumed. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he may add your sighting to the compresensive data he is amassing on species distribution.

Letter 11 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Interesting Caterpillar
Location: Central Texas
November 21, 2010 6:16 pm
I took a picture of this today (11/21/2010) in Central Texas. Is it a Mournful Sphinx Caterpillar?
Signature: Matt

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Matt,
You have the correct family, but the wrong species.  We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar,
Manduca rustica, based on images posted to the Sphingidae of the Americas website which indicates it feeds on lantana, the plant upon which you photographed your individual.

Letter 12 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Subject:  Death head hawkmoth
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Florida
Date: 07/15/2018
Time: 02:03 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This is a picture of the bug I saw in Florida
How you want your letter signed:  Jennifer Bouchard

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Jennifer,
As we indicated when you commented that you found a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in Florida:  “We suspect you saw a different related Hornworm that is native to North America.”  Now that you have submitted an image, we can confirm that not only did not not see a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, we can tell you that you did see a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar.  There are images on Sphingidae of the Americas to confirm your sighting.  There is a strong resemblance between these two caterpillars from the same family, despite the miles that separate their ranges.

Letter 13 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


polythemus moth caterpillar?
Hello there! We are such fans of your site. We looked through all of your caterpillar photos and found similar but not (I don’t think) exactly the same. It is happily munching away on our Duranta in South Florida. I only see one caterpillar. Is it a polythemus moth? Thank you so much for your help!! Sincerely,
Laura and Joe Lazzar

Hi Laura and Joe,
We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica. Bill Oehlke’s website has photos that support this. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he can add you sighting to his comprehensive data on species distribution. Your identification of the food plant is also helpful for our readership.

Letter 14 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Manduca rustica?
I couldn’t find out what kind of caterpillar I had, but with the help of your (wonderful) site I think I found it…The Manduca rustica. My dad found it while digging in his garden planting new flowers. Could you tell me what it eats, and how to care for it? Thank you!!
Mesa, Arizona

Hi Sarah,
According to Bill Oehlke: “Larvae feed on fringe tree ( Chionanthus virginicus ) and jasmine ( Jasminum species ) in the olive family (Oleaceae), and on bushy matgrass ( Lippia alba ) and Aloysia wrightii in the vervain family (Verbenaceae), and on knockaway ( Ehretia anacua ) in the borage family (Boraginaceae), and on Bignonia species like Desert willow ( Chilopsis linearis ) in the Bignoniaceae family. Larvae have also been reported on Tecoma stans, Callicarpa americana, Fraxinus, Helianthus annuus, Heliotropium, Lagerstroemia indica, Lantana camara, Ligustrum japonicum, Ligustrum ovalifolium, Plumeria acuminata, Plumeria alba, Ligustrum vulgare, Sesamum indicum, Syringa vulgaris, Trichostema dichotomum, Annona squamosa, Gossypium herbaceum and Himatanthus sucuuba . The caterpillar has numerous white nodules on top of the thorax and seven pairs of oblique, blue-gray stripes along the side of the body. The horn is white at the base and blue-gray at the tip. Host plants also include Crossvine, bignonias, and various members of the forget-me-not and vervain families.”

Letter 15 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


My girls and I have been “raising” this fellow for about a week now. I have researched and looked at every caterpillar picture I can find. We know it is a sphinx but are uncertain which one. The facts that are causing the confusion are his horn color and his eating habits. He came out of our olive tree and that is his leaf of choice in his new “home”. Have you ever heard of this. He is not alone in our tree and by the looks of the ground they have friends in our neighbor’s olive tree as well. Your web site is wonderful! Any info. on our new “pet” would be appreciated.
Lynda, Erika & Emily

Hi Lynda, Erika and Emily,
The proper identification of Sphinx Caterpillars is often difficult. We sometimes spend hours online trying to identify them. Right now, time does not permit this but we would love to know what you have. The olive tree host is noteworthy information. Try going to Bill Oehlke’s excellent site to see if you can identify this critter, then please report back so we can post the information.

Thank you so much for the tip. We checked out Mr. Oehlke’s site and e-mailed him. He has already identified our friend as a Manduca rustica and has now made a Maricopa County page for his site. He also told us that our caterpillar was most likely violated by many parasitic wasps. Too bad he may not make it to his adulthood. He has already begun to pupate so I guess we won’t know for a while. Maybe one of his buddies in our other “habitat” will make it. My girls and I are so grateful for the help! Your site is great!
Lynda, Erika and Emily Leatherwood
Scottsdale, Arizona

Letter 16 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Rustic Sphix caterpillar?
I live in Queen Creek Arizona. This morning my 2.5 year old son was looking out the front window and telling me he saw a millipede outside (we found a small one in the house one time and since then he’s wanted to see one again). We went outside and found not a millipede but THE BIGGEST CATERPILLAR I HAVE EVER SEEN! It was a little cool out this morning and the caterpillar was laying on the even cooler cement and not moving much, there was also some “moisture” coming from its mouth region. I assumed it wasn’t doing so well. My son wanted to look at it some more so I put it in a plastic box and took it inside. The caterpillar perked right up…I’m assuming because it was warmer in the house. I was interested to know what this caterpillar was so I got on the internet and did some research (that is actually how I found your website a few months ago when I was trying to figure what type of spider I was seeing all over my house. I love your website!) I think I have narrowed this caterpillar down to some kind of “sphix” caterpillar and I think it is a rustic sphix. Am I right? Please let me know.

Hi Steph,
We agree with your Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar identification. Just before pupation, many caterpillars turn pink, orange or brown. Also, before pupation, those that burrow in the ground leave the food plant and become more visible. This is often in the autumn. Give your caterpillar some loose soil and it will burrow and pupate.

Letter 17 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


What am I?
This lovely critter was found on our bushes we were trimming in Rowlett TX. What is it? Any idea? Thanks for your info.

Hi Suzanne,
We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica.

Letter 18 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Very Large Caterpillar
July 20, 2009
I found this caterpillar on a Vitex tree while pruning. I had thought perhaps it was a Poplar Hawk Moth or maybe a Luna Moth caterpillar but, am now unsure after looking at pictures of each.
Marietta, Ga

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar
Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Brad,
Properly identifying Sphinx Caterpillars can be a challenge for us, and it often takes considerable research.  Thanks so much for supplying the name of the food plant.  We just did a web search of vitex and sphinx and quickly arrived at this Sphinx Caterpillar of Texas page by Bill Oehlke that had a photo of the Rustic Sphinx eating Vitex.

Letter 19 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Large green/yellow hornworm?
September 17, 2009
I noticed that our forsythia plant appeared to have died, but upon closer inspection, found a large yellow/green critter on it. Can you help me Identify the caterpillar?
rock hill south carolina

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar
Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Brian,
We looked at all the possible Sphinx Caterpillar candidates found in South Carolina on Bill Oehlke’s website before deciding that the Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica, is the likeliest possiblity for your individual.  The real decisive factor is the food plant forsythia.  Forsythia is in the olive family Oleaceae, and the Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar feeds on the leaves of plants in that family.

Letter 20 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar


Xylophanes Pluto Moth
September 19, 2009
Here is a photo of the X-Pluto Moth in it’s Green stage at night hanging from a leaf on a Texas Lilac Tree in Garland Texas 9-19-09
Tom Stovall
Garland, TX

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar
Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Tom,
Your photo is quite wonderful and it illustrates this Sphinx Caterpillar in its classic pose that resulted in the name sphinx.  We disagree with your identification.  We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica.  The best method for identifying both Sphinx Caterpillars and the adult moths, we believe, is to scan the images on Bill Oehlke’s Sphingidae of the Americas website.  The site has the option of viewing by individual states, so you are able to just search for species found in Texas.  Using that method, we identified your Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar on Bill’s website.

Letter 21 – Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, we believe


Subject: Large Green Caterpillar
Location: Apache Junction, AZ
January 11, 2016 9:30 pm
From all my research it appears this baby is lost, and shouldn’t be this far West!! I caught my dogs playing with it and I need to know if there is any harm it could cause to them from either skin secretions or if ingested???
Signature: Apache Junction, AZ

Possibly Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar
Possibly Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Since you did not provide your suspected identification on this Sphinx Caterpillar, we started our research from scratch.  We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica, or another member of the genus.  We made our identification using the Sphingidae of the Americas site, and BugGuide sightings include the entire southern portion of the United States, from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic ocean, and as far north as Pennsylvania.  To the best of our knowledge, there are no known toxins associated with the Rustic Sphinx.

Letter 22 – Rustic Sphinx Metamorphosis


Revision: Rare metamorphosis or rare insect, maybe
Please ignore my previous message sent last night. In my excitement, I looked through your great Web site, and upon further investigation tonight, saw that it is identified: "Your moth is a member of the Hawkmoth Family Sphingidae known as the Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica." << The first four pictures were taken within 14 minutes of each other around sunset in Tucson, Arizona. The bug was on my home’s doorstep. I see by looking on your Web site that it is a Rustic Sphinx moth, Manduca rustica. It didn’t seem able to move, and "posed" for my flash photography. I thought the unfolding of this newly metamorphosed moth’s wings was amazing. I have never seen this bug before, and neither have a few other long-time residents I asked. The last photo shows the handsome bug two hours later, still in exactly the same spot, almost ready to fly. Ta-dah! It took to the air a few minutes later.

Hi Pamela,
Nice bit of sleuthing. We are thrilled to have your Rustic Sphinx metamorphosis images.


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3 thoughts on “Rustic Sphinx Moth: Essential Facts Simplified”

  1. We have a Rustic Sphinx Horned Caterpillar in our raised bed garden. We are located in Northern CA. Is this a threat to our garden? Apparently they are generally located in Texas. We suspect he arrived in our yard via a tomato plant from the local nursery. Is this a problem or should we just ignore him/her?


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