Miami-Dade County, Florida
Sphingidae Larva

Erinnyis ello, Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida,
courtesy of Vanessa Goderich.

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 Vanessa Goderich has been rearing the Erinnyis ello caterpillars depicted at top of page. Vanessa writes, "I came across your site while doing some research on Ello Sphinx caterpillars and moths. I'm currently raising quite a number of them and wanted to know where you found most of the information that helped you put your website together. I've had several of my caterpillars go from green to that dark, almost purplish color out of the blue. I wanted to do some research on whether if what sex they will be has any connection with this, or why does this happen.

"Hopefully you can help me on my quest!"

I do not know of any reference books that will explain why the colour change occurs or why there is such variation in the larvae.

From my own experience with Saturniidae and Sphingidae larvae which I have reared (I have reared tens of thousands), and from the reading I have done over the years, and personal communication with other rearers, I can say that there is no relationship between colour forms/morphs and gender.

An excellent book by Jim Tuttle is supposed to be released before the end of this year (2007). Perhaps there will be some info in the book. Most of my information (flight season, range) has come from direct communication with people who have encountered these moths. I have consulted some websites. If you do a google.com search for Erinnyis ello, you will probably find bits and pieces of info on many dif websites.

If you care to share any of your information (foodplants, location, dates) or images, I would be happy to post same.

I have reared many Sphingidae species here on Prince Edward Island and also some in New Jersey where I grew up.

Many species take on a darker colouration when they are mature and ready to pupate. The Darapsa choerilus which I frequently rear go from green, matching the foliage upon which they feed, to reddish brown when they are ready to crawl down the foodplant stems to pupate amongst leaf litter. Perhaps, for some, the darker colour helps them blend in better with the foodplant stems or trunks that they descend to pupate.

The Sphinx poecila larvae that I rear here usually remain green and feed on green foliage of blueberry bushes.

They frequently turn the dark purple in synchronization with the ripening of the berries on the host plant.

I do not know of any moth or butterfly species where there are apparent pattern or colour differences in the larvae associated with gender.

Vanessa replies, "Thanks for the information. I'll keep an eye out for that book. I'm in Miami, Fl. and the host plant for the Ello Sphinx by where I live is the Poinsettia plant. You can see I've attached a picture containing the two different color variations of the caterpillar and a picture of one of my moths that emerged this morning (November 9, 2007)."

Erinnyis ello male, Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida,
courtesy of Vanessa Goderich, November 9, 2007.

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 Miami-Dade County (Thirty-eight species are reported on U.S.G.S. as of November 2007). It is hoped that this checklist, with the thumbnails and notes, will help you quickly identify the Sphingidae species you are likely to encounter as larvae.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Miami-Dade 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.

Visit Manduca rustica on Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (porterweed), North Miami Beach, Miami Dade County, Florida, August 11, 2016, courtesy of Kevin.

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, USGS Pink-spotted hawkmoth. Plants in the Convolvulaceae family, especially Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and in the 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 USGS, 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 Giant Sphinx,
Very large larvae. In late 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 of it.

Cocytius duponchel, USGS Duponchel's sphinx,
Colourful larvae, with maroon line down center of apple green back. Guatteria diospyroides, Annona purpurea, Annona reticulata, Xylopia frutescens, Custard apple (Annona glabra), probably other members of Annonaceae family. rare in Florida

Dolba hyloeus USGS, 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 USGS, 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, Southern Pine Sphinx. Various pine species, including loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and longleaf pine (P. pinaster). They are well camouflaged and are without an anal horn.

Manduca quinquemaculatus USGS, Five-spotted Hawkmoth

Tomato Hornworms. 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, Rustic Sphinx. Larva has numerous white nodules on top of thorax; seven pairs of oblique, blue-gray stripes along body side. Horn white at base, blue-gray at tip. Many hosts utilized.

Manduca sexta WO, 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).

Smerinthini Tribe:

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.

Paonias myops USGS, 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 found 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 head capsules.

Pseudosphinx tetrio, the Tetrio Sphinx, USGS

The brightly coloured caterpillar is easy to find in gardens. The larva are big and colourful and easily identified.

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).

Callionima falcifera WO. The narrow, flattened head of the larva is clearly visible in the lateral view, left below. It might be in Miami-Dade County as a stray.

Callionima parce USGS, the Parce sphinx

Sorry, no larval image available at this time.

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.

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

Erinnyis crameri, the Cramer's Sphinx, USGS

Larvae feed on various plants in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae): Rauvolfia ligustrina, Rauvolfia tetraphylla, Stemmadenia obovata. There is also a brown form.

Erinnyis ello USGS/NG, 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

Erinnyis oenotrus, the Oenotrus Sphinx, USGS
Larvae feed on Forsteronia spicata and other species in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae). There is also a green form. rare in Florida

Eupyrrhoglossum sagra WO, the Cuban Sphinx. 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 very dark larval form.

Hemaris thysbe WO, 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 diffinis WO, Snowberry Clearwing; Bumblebee Moth. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum), dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). Horn black with yellow base.

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).

Madoryx pseudothyreus USGS, 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, 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.

Perigonia lusca, the Half-blind Sphinx, USGS Larvae have a yellow tail horn, a green body and a dark blue stripe down the back. There is at least one color morph (depicted). In Florida, caterpillars eat tawnberry holly and rough velvetseed.

Phryxus caicus, the Caicus Sphinx, USGS

Larvae feed on Mesechites trifida and probably on other members of the Apocynaceae (Dogbane family: Echites). In Florida larvae have been reported on mangrove rubber vine (Rhabdadenia biflora).

Philampelini tribe:

Eumorpha achemon WO, 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, Banded Sphinx. Primrose-willow, Ludwigia (water primrose), plants in evening primrose family. Hornless, highly variable larva. Look for large, dark spiracular circles and dark line in center of back. See image at bottom of 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.

Eumorpha pandorus USGS, 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.

Macroglossini tribe:

Amphion floridensis USGS, 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 USGS, Grote's Sphinx. Rare in U.S., but sightings occur (mostly of adult moths) in east from Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. David's milkberry/snowberry (Chiococca alba) in madder family (Rubiaceae), black torch (Erithalis fruiticosa), Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).

Darapsa choerilus WO, 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.

Darapsa myron USGS, Virginia Creeper Sphinx; 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 USGS, Hydrangea Sphinx. Larvae turn deep chocolate brown just prior to pupation, "horn" on the tail also turns downward as pupation draws near. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), waterwillow (Decodon verticillatus).

Hyles lineata WO, 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.

Sphecodina abbottii WO, the Abbott's Sphinx

Larvae feed at night on grape (Vitis) and ampelopsis (Ampelopsis) and hide on the bark of their host plants during the day. Virginia creeper would also be a suitable host.

There is also a dark form without the green patches. Note the "raised eye", replacing the anal horn.

Xylophanes pluto USGS, Pluto Sphinx

Milkberry (Chiococca species), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Indian Mulberry (Morinda royoc), Erythroxylon species. Three known colour morphs: green, brown, and purple/brown.

Xylophanes porcus USGS stray, Porcus Sphinx. The upperside of the forewing is olive-brown with lighter brown along the outer margin. The upperside of the hindwing is brown with some paler spots.

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.

Enjoy some of nature's wonderments, giant silk moth cocoons. These cocoons are for sale winter and fall. Beautiful Saturniidae moths will emerge the following spring and summer. Read Actias luna rearing article. Additional online help available.

Eggs of many North American species are offered during the spring and summer. Occasionally summer Actias luna and summer Antheraea polyphemus cocoons are available. Shipping to US destinations is done from with in the US.

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