Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Carrie, October 2007
Created/dedicated as per personal communication with Jenny Yates, September 5, 2010
Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 5, 2010

Palm Beach County, Florida
Sphingidae Larva

Manduca rustica, Palm Beach County, Florida,
October 8, 2007, courtesy of Carrie.

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 Carrie who came across the Manduca rustica caterpillar depicted at top of page. Carrie writes, "I am sending you a picture of the caterpillar. Yes, it is four inches long. I found it on a gardenia bush while I was cutting it. I am amazed of the size of his feces. I have him in a box with lots of leaves and grass. This has been so much fun for myself and my neighbors. Let me know your thoughts."

Manduca rustica fifth instar on basil, Palm Beach County, Florida,
September 5, 2010, courtesy of Jenny Yates.

Jenny Yates writes, "There is another basil plant about 8 feet away and it has been stripped pretty much bare. We have mulch and a plethora of lizards, and I didn't notice/see any caterpillar droppings. Also nearby are two rosemary plants, a parsley plant, and formerly some lettuce (I think the lettuce were done for before the caterpillar would have entered the scene). Additionally, there is a hedge row of some plant I don't know and some palm trees. The basil is the only one that seems to have damage."

I was surprised when Jenny indicated the Manduca rustica larva depicted above was found feeding on basil and I asked Jenny to check to see if much foliage had been consumed. I will now add basil to the Manduca rustica species file as a foodplant for that species.

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 Palm Beach County (Eighteen 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 as larvae.

A "WO" after the species name indicates that I have no confirmed reports of this species in Palm Beach County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this species 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,

Larvae 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. 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 USGS, 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,
Mature caterpillars are very large. In the last instars, larvae are uniform green with a dark purple center back line and a very sharp white posterior side slash with some dark green on both sides of it.

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 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 bombycoides USGS, the Northern Pine Sphinx

This caterpillar is also without the anal horn and feeds on pines.

The long stripes and reddish brown afford great camouflage.

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.

Manduca quinquemaculatus WO, 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/Carrie/JY, the Rustic Sphinx
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. Many hosts are utilized.

Manduca rustica on basil, September 5, 2010, Jenny Yates

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:

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).

Paonias excaecata USGS, generally more northerly, 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 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, the Streaked Sphinx: In Florida larvae have been found on Schinus terebinthefolia. Later instars hide at the base of a leaf or near the base of the tree's trunk when not feeding (all larvae were found on saplings). Early instar larvae have extremely pointed head capsules and sometimes have difficulty shedding their head capsules.

Macroglossinae subfamily


Dilophonotini tribe:

Aellopos tantalus WO, 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 Broward County as a stray.

Callionima parce WO, the Parce sphinx

may or may not be present in Palm Beach County. Sorry, no larval image available at this time.

Enyo lugubris, the Mournful Sphinx, WO

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, 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, WO
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 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 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 WO, 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.

Perigonia lusca, the Half-blind sphinx, USGS. Larvae have a yellow horn, a green body and a dark blue stripe down the back. There is at least one color morph (depicted). Larvae feed on Guettarda macrosperma and Coffee (Coffea species). Larvae can become serious pests.

Phryxus caicus, the Caicus Sphinx, WO

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).

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.

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 WO, 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.

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 WO, 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 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 the east from Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Larvae feed on David's milkberry/snowberry (Chiococca alba) in the madder family (Rubiaceae) and have also been found 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.

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 WO/NP, 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 pluto WO, 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 porcus WO stray, the 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. unlikely

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.

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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.

Enjoy some of nature's wonderments: Saturniidae cocoons. Cocoons of the giant silkmoths may be purchased in the fall and winter. Big and beautiful giant silk moths will emerge in spring/summer. Read Actias luna rearing article. Additional online help available.