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Help identify this caterpillar?

Can you help me identify this caterpillar? We found it in Carpinteria.

Thanks!

Ananda Mahto, Carpinteria - July 10, 2019

Curator Response

Hi Ananda,

This little monster is a caterpillar of the White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata). Caterpillars of this abundant and widespread species (over most of North America) come in lots of different colors and patterns. Note the large "spine" coming off the rear of the animal. This definitively places it as a member of the sphinx moth family, Sphingidae. The fact that the spine is orange with a black tip, and the head is speckled, is further evidence that this is the White-Lined Sphinx Moth. As adults, you would recognize sphinx moths as "hummingbird moths," which often nectar from tube-shaped flowers during the evening, hovering like hummingbirds using their fast and powerful wings. The voracious caterpillars eat just about every plant species under the sun, with a special preference for plants in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae) and the rose family (Rosaceae).

Best wishes,

Schlinger Chair and Curator of Entomology Matthew Gimmel, Ph.D.