Hummingbird Moth Caterpillar

Look what the boys found outside Sunday afternoon!

White lined sphinx moth caterpillar

Hooray for the internet because googling its description led us to this page about hummingbird moths and helped us identify it. And further research helped us figure out what it eats.

Though my son found it, it was spotted in a neighbor boy’s yard. After a brief fairness conference, it was determined the friend would raise him, so he carried him home in one of my glass jars. The boys were so cute, working out caterpillar ownership. I rather wanted to release him since these types of caterpillars and moths don’t do much garden harm, and feast mostly on weeds, but I was overruled.

Ah well, kind of makes me want to order some butterfly eggs or kits. Have you ever raised butterflies (or moths)?


  1. says

    Oh wow! Thanks so much for the link. My son and I just found the pupa shell thingy in our garden yesterday and could not figure out what it was. Now we know there are some new moths out there and we’ll have to keep an eye out for those pretty caterpillars.

    • says

      Oh fun! Put it in a jar and see if you can catch it coming out. Try to identify it, if it isn’t one like ours and it’s the kind that will destroy your garden you might want to find a chicken to feed it to :)

  2. says

    We raised some tobacco horn worms from eggs about 3 summers ago after finding some in our garden. Even though two of the almost single handedly destroyed by 50 tomato plants we salvaged and started over (the south has such a looooong growing season) and we identified some eggs, bought a sacrificial patio tomato plant, a sun lamp for inside control (we had lots of parasitic wasps in the garden).
    Here’s a photo (from my old flickr account) about a week before they were ready to go underground until the next spring
    Here’s the first blogpost (import from my old blog) I wrote about it

    I really love these little guys!

    • says

      I guess tobacco is in the nightshade family w/ tomatoes huh. Nobody grows it up this way so we call those tomato hornworms!

      I admit I grew up destroying those kind when they wreaked havoc on my parents garden. We don’t get them this far north though!

      • says

        Yes, if I remember correctly (it’s been awhile) the Tobacco Horn Worm has 7 stripes and the Tomato Horn Worm has 8 kind of curved stripe things and can be slightly speckled. But, yes, all in the family and oddly enough we have never grown tobacco but these guys will attack tomato and pepper plants just as quickly. We never had problems with them when we lived in south MS; when we moved to LA (the real LA, not L.A.) we had lots every year. Now that we are back in south MS it will be interesting to get back to what I’m used to. Keep your eyes out for the Squash Vine Borer. It wiped all our squash varieties last year. We also never had issues with them in MS. I am sure they are around but it was simply not an issue years ago. My children have really enjoyed finding and identifying garden creatures every year.

  3. says

    SO COOL! How fun to be able to find out what it is, I love the internet! :)

  4. Michelle says

    No butterflies, but we do get a couple praying mantis egg sacs every year. They are fun to watch hatch, and then to release in our garden.

    • says

      Oh now that would be cool. They like to make their egg sacs all along our back fence. We counted over 40 in the spring, all hatched now, though we didn’t get to watch. Do they really eat each other when they first come out?

      • Michelle says

        I’ve never seen that happen! However, we don’t try to keep them contained once they start emerging, either. As soon as I see the first ones coming out, we rush the egg sacs outside and put them in the garden. (We have a couple of cheap bug catcher containers from a dollar store for holding each egg sac before it hatches.). I wonder if they eat each other if they are kept in a jar or something for too long after hatching?

  5. Kristin H says

    I have never raised butterflies, but I’d really like to do a unit on the life cycle of Monarchs next year. So I’ve ordered a Monarch rearing kit (seeds to grow plants that will attract Monarchs) and we are learning about them here:

  6. says

    I have a friend who is currently raising butterflies for her daughter’s birthday. Her daughter decided she wanted to do a butterfly release at her party.

    I’ve never seen that sort of caterpillar before–very much makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.

  7. Kari says

    For my daughter’s 3rd birthday, we got her a Butterfly Garden. It is a round, screen habitat and we’ve raised several generations of Monarch butterflies every summer since. (She’s now 5) We just released a Monarch two days ago, and raised it from a tiny caterpillar. (We start the caterpillars in a canning jar with screen instead of a lid so they have something to grip when they go through metamorphosis. We then transfer them into the habitat.

    We fortunately live in an area where milk-weed plants are plentiful so we don’t have to buy more caterpillars, just send the kids out to look for them. We have so much fun doing this; my kids love it!

    • says

      I think we have milkweed too, is it the weed that looks like tall, prickly lettuce? When I pull that (with gloved hands) it has a milky substance inside.

  8. says

    We have “incubated” lots of ’em. It’s so much fun. Ky got a kit for a gift when he was younger, which was really neat, and has graduated to bringing home caterpillars in any number of containers–we most recently released three beautiful Monarchs (I have a great photo of him with it — see? Drat! too bad these computer thingies only go one way at a time. teehee) Anyway, it’s really easy to do and I bet your kids would dig it.

    • says

      My kids would *love* it I think. If we can manage not to kill them. Ahem, on our third chicken egg incubator cycle with no luck so far. Sounds like these would be much easier :)

      • says

        Methinks baby chickens’d be a whole lot tougher to do right than this… go for it. It may be just the confidence booster you need. ;)

  9. Wendy P. says

    We raised butterflies from a kit. It was fun but I got attached to the things and when they flew off, I cried and felt kinda depressed for weeks afterward. Ha… Also, we had one come out of its chrysalis with malformed wings and it broke my heart. It of course never flew away and we kept it in the enclosure until it died.

    • says

      Oh gosh, I could see myself doing that. I cried when I found a mouse in the trap by the chicken coop the other night. Geez.

  10. Wendy P. says

    I sound like a crazy person in my previous comment. I have a hard time not anthropomorphizing critters.

    • says

      No, I get it. Seriously. This is why we still have ten old hens who aren’t laying anymore. Neither one of us can bring ourselves to put them in the pot.

  11. Michelle says

    We have an abundance of milkweed vines in our yard, so the kids spent a lot of time finding caterpillars, housing caterpillars, bringing in fresh food for caterpillars, and tracking their cocoon time so we can try to see one hatch. There are dozens of monarchs in the world that were housed in the nursery in my living room, LOL.

    • says

      I really need to look up what a milkweed looks like because I think we have a plethora…I should go check the undersides of leaves for eggs.

  12. says

    Seriously, hornworms are not cute if you have ever had them in your tomato plants. That is the reason I didn’t plant a garden this year. Hornworms always come and kill my tomato plants, they are hard to spot too until they are huge, they you can track them based on their poop droppings. You did good sending that back over to the neighbors! Now, just hope that he doesn’t have a whole family traipsing around your garden, cause they WILL eat your tomato plants!

    • says

      Carla, the one pictured above actually isn’t a hornworm! It’s a hummingbird moth caterpillar. Easy to confuse since they look similar, but this one likes to eat weeds, and makes a very large moth after it makes its cocoon underground.

      We’ve never had tomato hornworms (or tobacco hornworms as a poster above called them) this far north, but my parents had them in their garden when I was growing up. I used to capture them and I think my dad fed them to the chickens as often as he could. I remember tracking them by their poop.

      • says

        The POOP! That is exactly how we would track them. They also turn in to a sphinx/hawk/hummingbird moth variety that’s why I like them so much. If you go out at night when it is dark and shine a black light on them they will glow.

  13. says

    We caught caterpillars in our yard and placed them in said glass jars with plants. They did, indeed, turn into butterflies. It was totally awesome!

    • says

      We have to try this! Even if it’s a ‘bad’ moth, we can identify it afterward…

  14. says

    woah, cool! I remember seeing the moths come around my mom’s four-o’clock plants as a child.

  15. trena says

    if you have any Iris stalks, you might look there for eggs etc as well–that’s where we seemed to have the most luck finding various caterpillar eggs @ my grandma’s house in IF when I was a little girl.

    Many fond memories of little plastic yellow butter dishes with slits cut in the plastic lids and a little clover and grass clippings to make the caterpillar all cozy. I, uh, shudder to think how many ‘good’ bugs we (my cousins & I) may have snuffed out due to our uh over-abundance of affection towards the poor things, ha!

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