Tag Archives: caterpillar food plants


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

Grow Native!

I love this handy chart that features a number of common butterflies we see in New England, and thought you would, too

Nectar plants are wonderful to attract butterflies to your garden, but if you want butterflies to colonize your garden, you need to plant their caterpillar host (food) plants. We all know Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed are the best host plants for Monarchs, and here are a few more suggestions. When you plant, they will come! And you will have the wonderful added benefit of watching their life cycle unfold.

Monarchs are dependent upon milkweeds during every stage of their life cycle. Milkweeds are not only their caterpillar food, it provides nectar to myriad species of pollinators.