hi!! i need a quick id on this guy! Found in North texas, i think he’s a vine sphinx moth and i’ve given him some beauty berry, but I’m not sure. I found him on the ground, not looking the greatest. Its really chilly and wet, so i brought him in.
Hi! Sorry, I didn’t even get a notification about your submission (UGH) and I can’t tell how long ago you sent this. You have a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. Very similar in size to the sphinx moths, but the pattern and texture on the body is different. Most sphinx moths also have a tail, but the Vine Sphinx drops their tail as they grow, so they are easily confused with other large caterpillars.
Left: Vine Sphinx caterpillar / Right: Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. Note the color of the face and the stripes on the side of the body
Regarding food: you’re right that it’s important to know what species a caterpillar is to figure out what they eat. Some species will eat just about anything, and some are a lot pickier. The Vine Sphinx caterpillars will eat (guess!) vines! Mine were eating Sorrelvine (aka Possum Grape), and I read that they will also eat grape vines. Polyphemus moths will eat leaves from many types of woody trees and shrubs, including oak, rose, and elm.
There is a sphinx moth caterpillar that eats Beauty Berry: the Rustic Sphinx moth:
Some good resources for identification and host plant information are:
- iNaturalist [link]: There is a tool that will identify what you took a photo of, and it’s pretty good! Worldwide
- BugGuide [link]: They give ID tips and list host plants–but it can be harder to use if you don’t already know much about insect identification. I use BugGuide along with iNaturalist when I’m not sure about something. As an example, here is the page for Polyphemus Moths, which lists host plants [link]. North America.
- The Natural History Museum’s HOSTS database [link]: A massive searchable database for caterpillars and host plants. You can search by caterpillar OR plant, for if you know the caterpillar but not the plant, OR if you know the plant the caterpillar is eating, but you don’t know the caterpillar. Worldwide.
ALSO: feel free to send me a direct message anytime. Even if I’m not actively posting, I typically check tumblr at least once a day, and I try to respond to direct messages as soon as I can. My inbox has a tendency to … build up a bit.
I hope your caterpillar is okay! I know our weather has been pretty horrible lately (Central Texas has been FLOODING), but the bugs in Austin appear to be doing okay.
October 22, 2018