What White-lined Sphinx Caterpillars Eat

I was asked a question last week about what white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars eat. I had read that they eat wild relatives of the four-o’clock, a garden plant. A few weeks ago we visited Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park and I got some great first-hand information about what kind of plants the caterpillars feed on.

At the arboretum we found caterpillars on a native plant that is being used as a landscape perennial called pink guara (Guara lindeimeri). I noticed, however, the caterpillars were only eating the flowers. Often the flowers lack toxins or feeding deterrents found in the leaves or stems, although I don’t know for sure this is the case here.

whitelined sphinx moth

Some of the caterpillars were working on a plant called white ratany (Krameria grayi).

whitelined sphinx moth

whitelined sphinx moth

I needed a friend’s help to identify that one. The plant has pretty purplish-pink flowers, but they are inconspicuous. She said the plant is a partial parasite that takes food from the roots of fellow desert plants like bursage or creosote bush. I also found out that the flowers produce an oily substance rather than nectar (weird!), but that some native bees will take it to mix with pollen.

whitelined sphinx moth

Finally, we cheered the caterpillars when we found this batch eating the noxious weed, spotted spurge. Go white-lined caterpillars, go! (Sorry, the photo isn’t all that great).

For more information about white-lined sphinx moths and their caterpillars, check these previous posts:

Raising Caterpillars, which also has a photo of the adult

More About White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars

Bug of the Week:  White-lined Sphinx Caterpillars

This entry was posted in Bug of the Week, Learning Outdoors, moths, nature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What White-lined Sphinx Caterpillars Eat

  1. SuicidalBunny00 says:

    Hello, I know this post is pretty old, but if you’re still around, I have some questions regarding Hyles Lineata.

    I have 4 of these in my backyard, the larval plant is a Jalepeno shrub. But they’re all so hungry all the time, they’re destroying my plants/peppers!! >_<

    Is there any way I can raise them away from the plant? Two of them are ~3"-3.5" (mature), the other two ~.75"-1" (immature). I'm not sure if, because they get so big, do I need to keep them in a giant container? I tried to use a pickle jar, but one of them died, and they didn't seem to like it at all.

    Get back to me via Email – (genevamueller@gmail.com), if you find this soon. Thanks,

    - G

  2. Pingback: Hummingbird Moth Caterpillar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>