Our daughter Liv discovered an enormous brilliant green caterpillar in our garden one morning last week. It was quietly hanging out in the foliage of the grapevines embowering the outdoor shower. Perhaps it was about four or five inches in length, and very robust, thicker than a large man’s thumb. We identified the Giant as the Pandorus Sphinx Moth caterpillar.

We placed the caterpillar, with branches of the vine it was found on, in a terrarium with a screened top. I went out to the grapevine to cut more branches and unbeknownst to me, returned indoors with a second, younger and smaller Pandorus Sphinx Moth caterpillar!

The ginormous Pandorus Sphinx wasn’t interested in eating, but instead began exploring the edges of the terrarium. It appeared as though it was ready to pupate. The following morning the caterpillar had turned a lovely bicolor green and cinnamon. We filled a glass fish bowl with soil and placed the caterpillar in the dirt. Within a few minutes, it had burrowed into the soil. Here the caterpillar will pupate within a cocoon-like shallow chamber and may emerge within a few weeks, or may sleep through the winter before emerging next year.

The little horn on younger caterpillars fall off and what remains is a black dot, which looks like a scary eyespot to potential predators. The black dots in the center of the slanted ovals running along either side of the caterpillar are spiracles, or breathing holes.

Caterpillar food plants include Grape (Vitis), ampelopsis (Ampelopsis), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus).

Scary eyespot

Pandorus Sphinx Moth image courtesy wikicommons media

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