Updated as per James P. Tuttle's The Hawk Moths of North America, September 2009
Updated as per personal communication with Donna Marie Kisslan (Erinnyis alope larva, September 16, 2009)
Updated as per personal communication with Chet Smith (Eumorpha labruscae 3-4 instar, Paleo Hammock Preserve, Fort Pierce, June 29, 2013); June 30, 2013

St. Lucie County, Florida
Sphingidae Larva

Erinnyis alope fifth instar on papaya, Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie County, Florida,
September 16, 2009, 7:00 am, courtesy of Donna Marie Kisslan.

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 Donna Marie Kisslan, who came across the Erinnyis alope caterpillar depicted at top and bottom of this page.

Donna Marie writes, "Good day to you, found this guy on my papaya, can you tell me what he is?"

I answered with identification and asked for location, date and permission to post image.

Donna Marie replied, "Thank you! Hope this is big enough...... Donna from Port St. Lucie, Florida Sighting Wednesday September 16, 2009 Around 7:00 am. It was in the crown of my Papaya and was stretched out, I thought it was a dead branch at first. Have a great day....."

Many thanks also to Chet Smith who provides the following image of a third or fourth instar Eumorpha labruscae larva, via Daniel Marlos of What's That Bug?.

Eumorpha labruscae, Paleo Hammock Preserve, Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County, Florida,
third or fourth instar, June 29, 2013, courtesy of Chet Smith, via Daniel Marlos.

Sixty-five Sphingidae species are listed for Florida on the U.S.G.S. (now BAMONA) website. Not all of the species are reported or anticipated in St. Lucie County No Sphingidae species are reported on U.S.G.S. as of september 16, 2009). 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 St. Lucie County, but I (William Oehlke) expect that this moth and its larvae are 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.

Please also send your sightings to BAMONA, an excellent online resource.

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

Sphinginae subfamily

Sphingini tribe:

Agrius cingulata, WO 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.
generally more eastern species

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, WO 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 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 WO, 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.

jasminearum

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 WO, 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 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).

Paratrea plebeja WO?, 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. generally more northerly

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 WO, 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:

Callionima falcifera, WO,

Larvae feed on Stemmadenia obovata and probably on other members of the Apocynaceae family. The narrow, flattened head of the larva is clearly visible in the lateral and dorsal views at left.

Enyo lugubris, WO, the Mournful Sphinx,

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

Erinnyis alope larva (brown form) on papaya, Port St. Lucie, September 16, 2009, Donna Marie Kisslan.

Erinnyis ello WO, 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

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, WO.

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, 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). Carica papaya serves as a larval host in Brazil.

Pseudosphinx tetrio, the Tetrio Sphinx, WO

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 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 CS, 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. Large "side panels" are green in instars 2-4.

Eumorpha labruscae 3-4 instar, Paleo Hammock Preserve, Fort Pierce, June 29, 2013, Chet Smith

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.

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.

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 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.

Xylophanes tersa WO, 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.

Erinnyis alope fifth instar on papaya, Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie County, Florida,
September 16, 2009, 7:00 am, courtesy of Donna Marie Kisslan.

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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