Caterpillar ID, Nevada

todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)September 9, 2007

Spring Mountain-Red Rock-Nevada, while hiking my cousin came upon green caterpillars with yellow stripes down the body. They have a horn so I assume it's a type of sphinx moth?

Curious as to what species of cat and what is their host plant.

My apologies for the limited info.


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I only live a few miles from the location sited much of the year (lived right in the mouth of RRC until 15 months ago). There are at least 10 resident species of Sphingiidae in the southern Spring Mountains where Red Rock Canyon is. I have reared them all several times over the years. Larval foodplants differ quite a bit between many of these species, so knowing which species for sure will be important if you need to feed them. If they were not found on a plant and wandering, they may be getting ready to pupate in the soil, under rocks, etc and won't need to be fed.

Either way, the larva of some species are very similar, so for a positive ID and life history data more descriptive info would be nice, or a picture.


Body color (green, bright green, yellow green, whitish green, blue green)?

Any spots on body (white, red-brown, black)?

Body smoothe or granulated?

Stripes (lateral oblique slashes, lateral or dorsal along body)?

Number of stripes (2, 6, 7, 10 or 12)?

Color of stripes (white, white and black, yellow, orange)?

Horn color (red, black, green & pale orange)?

Horn size?

Would be glad to help with more info.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 4:27PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Bright green cats

Red spots

Granulated body

Lateral stripes. Maybe 6 but not 12

Smaller cats have green horns, the larger have orange

Some found on bushes, some on the ground

Apparently on her hike she witnessed dozens of crows dining on the cats and managed to save twenty or so.

Can't recall what plants she picked them off in her rush to save them. She wants to raise them and has no clue as to what host plant to use.

Beautiful country in those mountains. I visit frequently and always enjoy a early morning hike through the RRC.

Thank you, L.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 10:50PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Forgot to add - she says the stripes are yellow.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 11:59PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

I wonder could be the white-lined sphinx moth?

From what I read they eat 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.
If that be the case, would it be safe to say they would take to a tomato plant?


    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 12:25AM
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From the new information you've supplied several species are easily eliminated.

Still leaves 2 possibilities that have very variable larva and your data sways back and forth between them.

It is possible they are Hyles lineata (White-lined Sphinx) as suggested. They have several forms of larva that are highly varible. But usually their larva are either yellow with black patterns; black with yellow patterns; yellow with a black oval dorsal band or black with small paired yellow dorsal spots and a series of yellow dots in rows laterally. Ventral surface is usually yellow on all forms. They can vary anywhere between any two of these forms as well, have from bright to very muddy colors. I've found some in SE AZ that washed the yellow and black together in a way that they looked like they were basically a dirty green. The horn is usually yellow or yellow and black. They are general feeders that will accept quite a few plant species. I won't list them yet, because...

My guess is Sphinx sequoiae (no common name)from your description. Their larva are bright green, with red-brown spots mid dorsal that become a line on the rear half of the larva, two pairs of white dots that become a line of yellow-brown spots below the spiricles. The horn is short, green with a yellow tip. Their larval foodplants are Cedar and Juniper.

Always fun to find something new and I'd bet fighting off the Ravens (not crows in RRC) added some fun to the moment for your cousin.

Cultivated tomato is in the Solanaceae family. Never tried it myself, but none of the known foodplants for H. lineata are in that family. That alone doesn't mean they wouldn't use it though.

Keep us posted on how they do. They will winter-over until next year to get adults.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 2:36AM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

I'll see if she can send a picture.

Thank you, L!


    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 12:07PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 3:16PM
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I sure pictured something completely different from your descriptions, so am glad you posted pictures (great pictures BTW).

This is a White-lined Sphinx cat. They are the most wide spread of all the Sphingidae and can occur in almost pest numbers in some places. Here in extreme southern NV we had a huge flight of them not to long ago - probably why your cousin found them so easily.

Portulaca, Fuschia, Mirabilis, Epilobium and Malus are some of the common LFP's, but I have also found them feeding happily on many other families of plants (Aristolochia, Malvus, Bidens, Ipomoea, Rosa, etc). Its a very general feeder. In a pinch they will probably take danelion greens or any of the other Asters too.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 5:40PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Bought two large plastic tubs and filled it with dirt. We invested in 60% of the plants listed above. The other 40% were not in stock or out of season. They ate a little Ipomoea then showed no interest.

Picked a few branches off the crabapple tree and that did the trick.

Two took for the dirt and quickly burrowed.

Found an inchworm amongst the lot.

Many thanks, L!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 12:45AM
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Lucky you! I hope to get one some day. I see the adults flying around, but have not gotten any cats yet. You'd think as common as they are, I would. I have several of their "preferred" host plants.

Great photos BTW!


    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 8:24AM
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