Caterpillar Southeast Arizona
Location:  Southeast Arizona
September 13, 2010 8:56 pm
I found this beautiful caterpillar, about 3 inches long under my bench pillow this morning (I always check under the pillows!) I’ve searched the web extensively and just can’t find out what it is. My habitat – riparian and mesquite.
Signature:  Heather Borman

Sweet Potato Hornworm

Hi Heather,
Though Bill Oehlke’s very comprehensive Sphingidae of the Americas website does not have a color match to your specimen, we nonetheless suspected that this was the larva of the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth,
Agrius cingulata.  This highly variable caterpillar is commonly called the Sweet Potato Hornworm, and according to Bill, they “ feed on plants in the Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in the Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in the Americas. ”  We did find a color match on BugGuide.  We suspect when a species has variably colored caterpillars, it helps certain individuals escape detection from predators, an example of evolution in process.  We are copying Bill Oehlke because he may want to ask permission to post your photo on his excellent website as well.

Bill Oehlke confirms ID
I agree that it is Agrius cingulata.
Bill Oehlke

Beautiful bug!!  The Datura have been in bloom the last couple of weeks on the property.  Yes, feel free to use the photo.  A credit would be appreciated.  I live in St. David, AZ, near the San Pedro River.

One Response to Sweet Potato Hornworm

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Hello together,

    this is a very interesting and rather confusing colour variation of a sweet potato hornworm caterpillar (Agrius cinqulatus), I suppose; the brown and brownish pattern variations are more common in the closely related Agrius convolvuli from the Old World, on the other hand.

    Best wishes,

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