What The Heck Is This?

I noticed several of these enormous caterpillars on my Starflowers (Pentas lanceolata) this morning.

Caterpillar on Pentas
Mystery caterpillar.

Enormous and, I might add, really ugly. Note that the head and the butt (do caterpillars have a butt?) are kind of brown and slimy looking, as if it were pooping at both ends.

Apparently Pentas are a host plant for the Tersa sphinx moth, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what this is. ย Can anybody ID this critter?

32 Comments on “What The Heck Is This?

  1. That whip in the back tells me that most likely it is a moth in the Sphingidae family. Let me ask around for more info!

  2. I think it’s a white lined sphinx caterpillar. They can be very variable from green to brown, and that really looks like what I’ve seen pictures of when I was working on my post about the moths. There’s been a lot of white lined sphinx moths in our area, so that’s my guess.They aren’t supposed to be damaging like tomato hornworms, they just look a bit ugly.

    • Marian says hawkmoth, but the two are related, right? I like this general sort of moth, they remind me of hummingbirds, And I have seen the adults in our garden.

      • I think they are the same thing. Hawkmoth is the common name and can refer to a few different moths in the same family.

    • Cool! We definitely have the adult hawkmoth and other sphinx moth adults in the garden. Nice to think that we’ve got the caterpillars.

    • But don’t you think the adult hawkmoths are cool? They come out during the day and hover like hummingbirds, plus they have ridiculously long probosces.

  3. I’m a bit late to the identification party, but this was very cool, thanks for posting. I had to look up all the possible suspects that folks suggested and I feel like I know more about moths and caterpillars now.

  4. Lucky guy, Jason, to find such a beauty in your garden! Look at the markings and the little “horn” – hope you relocated it safely without hurting it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I left them where they were. We’re coming to the end of the season for Pentas anyway. Not sure what I should do when I throw away the plants, though. The only caterpillars I ever kill are tomato hornworms.

  6. Load the photo to BugGuide.net. You will get an answer from someone who really knows. I have submitted two insects and got my answer within minutes. They are usually entomologists that do the ID.

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