Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Bill Rose, March 2007
Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Jeanne Lowe, December 2009
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, August 2010

Lee County, Florida
Sphingidae Larva

Protambulyx strigilis, North Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida,
March 7, 2007, courtesy of Bill Rose, id by Jim Tuttle.

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta larva, central Texas, August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

This page is inspired by and dedicated to Bill Rose, who came across the Protambulyx strigilis caterpillar depicted at top and bottom of this page.

Bill writes, "I found this guy this morning behind our place of business in North Fort Myers. It was eating Brazilian Pepper leaves which made it an instant favorite of mine. I had no idea what it was, but finally stumbled around the internet and decided it's a Sphinx Moth of some type. I can't find a photo that exactly matches this caterpillar, only similar ones. I have it in an enclosure at home and will feed it and wait to see what it turns into. It measures about 2 1/4" long."

Bill also sends the fourth instar larval images of Xylophanes tersa at the bottom of the page. The very pale string of lateral "eyespots" had me fooled at first, but a few days later Bill was able to send images of the larvae, which had turned brown, and were unmistakeably X. tersa.

On December 8, 2009, Jeanne Lowe sent me the following image of a Protambulyx strigilis larva.

Protambulyx strigilis, Lehigh Acres, Lee County, Florida,
December 8, 2009, courtesy of Jeanne Lowe.

Jean writes, "I found you through the link on whatsthatbug.com. I was investigating a 2.5" caterpillar that my sister found crawling in her house. It was spotted on 12-08-09 in Lehigh Acres, Florida. It is believed that it was on some foliage that was cut and brought inside for a flower arrangement at Thanksgiving. She relocated it outdoors, but it headed right for the house again. so she put it in another part of the garden. I hope this info is useful to you."

Sixty-five Sphingidae species are listed for Florida on the U.S.G.S. website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in Lee County (Twenty-eight species are reported on U.S.G.S.). It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the Sphingidae larvae you are likely to encounter.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Lee County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth is present or might be present.

A "USGS" indicates the moth is reported on the USGS website and/or in Lepidoptera of North America, #1. Distribution of Silkmoths (Saturniidae) and Hawkmoths (Sphingidae) of Eastern North America, an excellent little booklet available through Paul Opler.

Please help me develop this list with improved, documented accuracy by sending sightings (species, date, location), preferably with an electronic image, via email to Bill Oehlke.

The night-blooming moon flower will attract many Sphingidae at dusk and into the night.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, USGS Pink-spotted hawkmoth. Larval hosts: Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and Solanaceae family, especially (Datura) (jimsonweed) and related plants in the Americas. There is also a brown form. Look for very large, dark spiracular circles.

Ceratomia catalpae WO, the Catalpa Sphinx

Young caterpillars feed gregariously on Catalpa species (Catalpa bignoniodes and C. speciosa) in the Bignoniaceae family, skeletonizing the foliage.

Larvae are mostly white in early instars.

Ceratomia undulosa WO, the Waved Sphinx

Fraxinus, Ligustrum, Quercus, Crataegus and Chionanthus virginicus are listed as hosts. In the fifth instar, the spiracular ovals are decidedly red and the anal horn is off-white to pinkish laterally.

Cocytius antaeus, USGS The Giant Sphinx,
Very large caterpillars. In last instars, larvae are uniform green with dark purple center back line and very sharp white posterior side slash with some dark green on both sides.

Dolba hyloeus WO, the Pawpaw Sphinx
Larvae feed on pawpaw (Asimina triloba), littleleaf sweetfern (Myrica aspleniifolia), possum haw (Ilex decidua), and inkberry (Ilex glabra) as well as Tall Gallberry Holly (Ilex coriacea). Louis Handfield reports larvae probably feed on Ilex verticellata in Quebec.

Isoparce cupressi WO, Cypress or Baldcypress Sphinx. Larvae feed on needles of baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) at night and pupate in shallow underground burrows where second generation overwinters.

Lapara coniferarum USGS, the Southern Pine Sphinx

Larvae feed upon various pine species, including loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and longleaf pine (P. pinaster). They are well camouflaged and are without an anal horn.

sorry, no larval image available at this time

Manduca brontes cubensis WO.

Larvae probably feed on Tecoma, Fraxinus americana, Fraxinus excelsior, Fraxinus platycarpa and Tecoma stans.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS, the Five-spotted Hawkmoth

The caterpillars are called Tomato Hornworms and each has a black horn at the end of the abdomen. Larvae feed on potato, tobacco, tomato, and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Manduca rustica USGS, the Rustic Sphinx
Caterpillar has numerous white nodules on top of thorax and seven pairs of oblique, blue-gray stripes along side of body. Horn: white at base and blue-gray at tip. Many hosts are utilized.

Manduca rustica on golden dewdrop, Cape Coral, October 9, 2010, Elizabeth Gillen.

Manduca sexta USGS, the Carolina Sphinx

Tobacco Hornworms, equipped with a red-tipped horn at the end of the abdomen, are true gluttons and feed on tobacco and tomato, and occasionally potato and pepper crops and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Paratrea plebeja USGS, the Plebeian Sphinx

Preferred hosts are common trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans), Florida yellow-trumpet (Tecoma stans), lilac (Syringa species), and passionflower (Passiflora species). The anal horn is blue, preceded by a yellow dash.

Sphinx gordius WO, the Apple Sphinx

Larval hosts are apple (Malus), sweetfern (Myrica), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), blueberry and huckleberry (Vaccinium), white spruce (Picea glauca), American larch (Larix laricina), and alder (Alnus). generally more northerly

Smerinthini Tribe:

Amorpha juglandis WO, the Walnut Sphinx. Amorpha juglandis larvae feed upon Walnut and butternut (Juglans), hickory (Carya), alder (Alnus), beech (Fagus), hazelnut (Corylus), and hop-hornbeam (Ostrya). generally more northerly

Paonias excaecata WO, the Blinded Sphinx

Larvae accept willows, birches, and cherries. I have also found them in the wild on oak in eastern Canada.

The skin is very granulose. generally more northerly

Paonias myops WO, the Small-eyed Sphinx

The larvae depicted is probably third instar.

There may be more red spotting on the sides as larvae mature.

Protambulyx strigilis USGS, Streaked Sphinx: Larvae feed on Schinus terebinthefolia. Later instars hide at base of leaf or near base of tree's trunk when not feeding (all larvae were found on saplings). Early instar larvae have extremely pointed head capsules; sometimes have difficulty shedding their head capsules.

Protambulyx strigilis larva, Lehigh Acres, December 8, 2009, Jeanne Lowe

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini tribe:

Aellopos tantalus USGS, the Tantalus Sphinx.

Larvae feed on seven year apple, Casasia clusiifolia, and probably other plants in the madder family. They have been reported on Indigo-berry (Randia aculeata).

Enyo lugubris, the Mournful Sphinx, USGS

The body and wings are dark brown. The forewing has a large black patch covering most of the outer half of the wing. There is a pale tan cell spot (dark inner pupil), and a fairly straight median line to the inside of the cell spot. Some larvae have extensive dark brown regions.

Erinnyis alope USGS, the Alope Sphinx. Larvae have several forms and feed on papaya (Carica papaya), nettlespurge (Jatropha), and allamanda (Allamanda).

Erinnyis ello USGS, the Ello Sphinx. Larvae feed on papaya (Carica papaya), Cnidoscolus angustidens, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), guava (Psidium species) and saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina). Manilkara bahamensis, Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia) and Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla) are also hosts. Nice socks! Larvae show considerable variation.

Erinnyis obscura, the Obscure Sphinx, USGS
Larvae feed on Rauvolfia ligustrina, Rauvolfia tetraphylla, Stemmadenia obovata, Philibertia, Cynanchum, papaya (Carica papaya), Asclepiadaceae, Blepharodon mucronatum, White vine (Sarcostemma clausum) and Morrenia odorata. rare

Eupyrrhoglossum sagra , the Cuban Sphinx, WO. Larvae feed on Guettarda macrosperma and Chomelia spinosa and other species in the Rubiaceae family. In Florida larvae have been found on Rough Velvetseed (Guettarda scabra) in the Rubiaceae family. There is also a dark form. See file. generally more southerly

Hemaris thysbe USGS, the Hummingbird Clearwing

There is also an orangey-pink prepupal form. The lateral line runs from S1 to the blue horn.

Hemaris thysbe larvae feed on viburnum and related plants.

Hemaris gracilis WO, the Slender Clearwing or Graceful Clearwing

Larval foods are blueberries including low bush blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), and laurel (Kalmia), all in the heath family (Ericaceae). generally more northerly

Madoryx pseudothyreus USGS, the False-windowed Sphinx. Females probably lay eggs on evening primrose (Onagraceae). In Florida larvae have been found on Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans). Sorry, no image available at this time.

Pachylia ficus, the Fig Sphinx, USGS. Females feed and lay eggs on fig leaves, especially Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea). Ficus carica, Ficus microcarpa, Ficus religiosa, Ficus pumila, Ficus gamelleira, Ficus prinoides, Ficus pumila and Artocarpus integrifolia are also listed as hosts. The extreme variability of larvae is shown to the left.

The few images that have been sent to me for identification help are usually as per the upper image.

Phryxus caicus, the Caicus Sphinx, USGS. Larvae feed on Mesechites trifida and other members of Apocynaceae (Dogbane family: Echites). Larvae have been reported on mangrove rubber vine (Rhabdadenia biflora). Carica papaya serves as larval host in Brazil.

Pseudosphinx tetrio, the Tetrio Sphinx, USGS. Larvae feed on Allamanda cathartica and Frangipani (Plumieria rubra) and probably other members of the Dogbane family: Apocynaceae. The huge, brightly coloured caterpillar is easy to find in gardens.

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon USGS, the Achemon Sphinx. Larvae feed upon Grape (Vitis), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and other vines and ivies (Ampelopsis). Larvae occur in both a light (green) form and a darker (tan/brown) form. Note six "segmented" oblique lines.

Eumorpha fasciatus USGS, the Banded Sphinx. Larvae feed upon primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose) and other plants in the evening primrose family. This hornless larva is highly variable. Look for large, dark spiracular circles and a dark line in the center of the back. See image at bottom of this page.

Eumorpha labruscae USGS, the Gaudy Sphinx. There is a striking resemblance to a snake's head and eye, and a flattening of the thoracic segments when the head is not retracted. In Florida larvae have been found on Possum Vine (Cissus sicyoides). Cissus incisa, Cissus verticillata, Eupatorium odoratum, Ludwigia, Magnolia, Parthenocissus and Vitis vinifera are all reported hosts. generally more southerly

Eumorpha pandorus WO, the Pandorus Sphinx. If you have Grape or Virginia Creeper nearby, then you might encounter this species.

Note the five large white ovals. There are orangey-brown and green forms also.

Eumorpha vitis USGS, the Vine Sphinx. Eumorpha vitis vitis larvae feed upon grape foliage (Vitis) and other vines (Cissus): Cissus pseudosicyoides and Cissus rhombifolia and Cissus sicycoides. I suspect there would be a brown form. Note five, smooth, narrow, oblique white lines. generally more southerly

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis WO, the Nessus Sphinix

In additon to Virginia creeper larvae accept Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum).

Larvae are green until the final instar.

Cautethia grotei WO, the Grote's Sphinx. Rare in U.S., but there are sightings (mostly of adult moths) in east from Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Larvae feed on David's milkberry/snowberry (Chiococca alba) in madder family (Rubiaceae); also on black torch (Erithalis fruiticosa) and Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).

Darapsa choerilus WO, the Azalea Sphinx. Larvae feed on Azalea and Viburnum and progress very rapidly. The larva to the left on Viburnum cassinoides is getting ready to pupate. Color change from green to light burgundy-brown indicates pupation is imminent. generally more northerly

Darapsa myron WO, the Virginia Creeper Sphinx or the Grapevine Sphinx.

If you have the foodplants indicated in the common names, you probably have this species nearby. The lower wings are orange. Larvae feed on Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Grape (Vitis), Ampelopsis, and Viburnum.

Darapsa versicolor WO, the Hydrangea Sphinx. Larvae turn a deep chocolate brown just prior to pupation, and the "horn" on the tail also turns downward as pupation draws near. Darapsa versicolor larvae feed on Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and waterwillow (Decodon verticillatus).

Hyles lineata USGS, the White-lined Sphinx. Larvae are highly varied and feed on a great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), and Fuschia.
All larvae seem, however, to have the red/black swellings split by dorso-lateral lines.

Xylophanes tersa USGS, the Tersa Sphinx. Larvae also feed on Borreria, Catalpa and Manettia spp. and Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra) and starclusters (Pentas species). They are also recorded on joe-pie weed and Hamelia patens and on Hedoydis nigricans. The green form may be more common.

Xylophanes pluto USGS, the Pluto Sphinx. Larvae feed on Milkberry (Chiococca species), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Indian Mulberry (Morinda royoc) and Erythroxylon species. There are three known colour morphs: green, brown, and purple/brown.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Xylophanes tersa, fourth instar, March 10, 2007,
Lee County, Florida, courtesy of Bill Rose.

Use your browser "Back" button to return to the previous page.

This page is brought to you by Bill Oehlke and the WLSS. Pages are on space rented from Bizland. If you would like to become a "Patron of the Sphingidae Site", contact Bill.

Please send sightings/images to Bill. I will do my best to respond to requests for identification help.

Protambulyx strigilis, North Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida,
March 7, 2007, courtesy of Bill Rose, id by Jim Tuttle.