See What a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar and Pupa Looks Like

Here's how to identify sphinx moth caterpillars and sphinx moth pupa in your garden. Learn what to look for in the stages of the sphinx moth lifecycle.

No matter how gorgeous the adults, sphinx moth larvae evoke a “Yuck!” from many folks, although not from birds, which eagerly devour them. When full-grown, sphinx moth caterpillars are about the size of your little finger and are smooth with a pointy horn at the tail end. It’s normal to overlook the unseemly larvae entirely unless one crosses your path as it goes off to pupate in late summer or early fall. Or you may only notice its presence when you see your tomato leaves devoured by a hungry sphinx moth caterpillar.

sphinx moth caterpillarCourtesy Daniella Meyer
This sphinx moth caterpillar is also known as a tomato hornworm

Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Sphinx moth caterpillars often startle gardeners from their sheer size, often 4 to 5 inches in length and vividly-colored. Depending on the species, you’ll find them eating just about any kind of vegetation—including tomatoes. Yup, the dreaded tomato hornworm caterpillar is actually the larva of a sphinx moth.

Five-spotted hawk moth caterpillars, also known as tomato hornworms, are driven by voracious appetites to feast on tomato, tobacco and potato plants. Due to their size, these caterpillars can do a lot of damage, and gardeners sometimes view them as serious pests.

Sphinx moth caterpillarsJill Staake
Sphinx moth caterpillars

To control tomato hornworms, pluck them off of your plants by hand. Here’s how to get rid of the 10 worst garden insects.

sphinx moth pupa
Pupa for a sphinx moth

Sphinx Moth Pupa

If you’re a gardener, chances are you may have come across a sphinx moth pupa at some point while digging in the dirt.

A sphinx moth pupa is quite big, several inches long and thicker than my thumb. The segmented end tends to wiggle when you touch it. The “handle” on the right side is actually a sheath protecting the developing proboscis—that certainly gives you an idea of the size of the moth that will emerge.

Discover 10 interesting facts about hummingbird moths.

tersa sphinx moth pupaJill Staake

Tersa Sphinx Moth and Pupa

This tersa sphinx moth (above) is newly-emerged from its pupa casing, which you can see on the table behind it. Tersas are night-flyers, feeding on nectar. Next, learn how to identify a hummingbird clearwing moth.

Popular Videos

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.