Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar

Subject: Hornworm, NOT Tomato
Location: South of Springfield, IL
April 8, 2014 4:56 pm
I found this guy crawling around in the gravel of the driveway. He eschewed leaves from my tomato plants.
He looked LIKE a tomato hornworm at first glance, but instead of one row of eye spots, he has a double row, the top ones being huge and red. It was large, about the size of a tomato hornworm, though marked differently.
I’ve cleaned it up in Photoshop, I was going to post it online (I’m an avid Wikipedian), but wanted to be able to identify it, first.
Signature: Kaz

Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar
Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Kaz,
Considering the record long and harsh winter we understand you experienced in your part of the world, we find it unusual that this sighting of a mature Hornworm occurred this week.  Since you admitted you “cleaned it up in Photoshop” we are not certain exactly much color and contrast manipulation has occurred, but this appears to be the caterpillar of a Whitelined Sphinx,
Hyles lineata, a highly variable species.  Except for the color intensity, it looks very similar to this example on BugGuide.  We are currently featuring a Wanted Poster from a graduate entomology student who is studying the population explosions of this species that often occur in the desert regions of the Southwest.  Some years the Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillars are incredibly numerous.  Native Americans collected them for food and they are popular among modern entomophages.  The adult Whitelined Sphinx, also known as the Striped Morning Sphinx, is our featured Bug of the Month for April 2014 because we have gotten so many reports and identification requests from Southern California this spring.

Oh, no, this was during the summer, I just didn’t discover your
website until now.  Weird, the pics on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyles_lineata look
completely different.  I take it that the wide range of this moth explains why its
caterpillar varies so extremely…I’m in Illinois, a couple of
thousand miles away from those places, and Wikipedia says its range
goes from central America through Canada.

We don’t believe the color variations have to do with location.  Members of the same brood can look quite different, some being black and others green.  We have several examples in our own archive that look similar to your individual, except for the color intensity.  See here and here.

2 thoughts on “Whitelined Sphinx Caterpillar”

  1. Saw a gorgeous huge white line sphinx moth this morning on my morning glories. Unfortunately I was unable to get a photo but looked it up on line to confirm what I saw. He was a good 3-4″ long. At first glance I thought it was one of my humming birds then saw the markings and knew better. He was only about 2′ from me so I got a real good look. I live just N. of Dallas, TX and have never seen one of these around here before. Absolutely beautiful!


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