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Carolina Sphinx (Tobacco Hornworm)

Manduca sexta


Green caterpillar with seven diagonal white lines and a black horn. The color of the front legs (the true legs) is white which helps distinguish it from the tomato hornworm (M. quinquemaculata). This one is covered in Braconid wasp cocoons. If it develoved, it would turn into a five spotted hawk moth.


They live on tomato plants.


The female wasp uses her ovipositor to lay eggs just under the skin of an hornworm. As the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworm’s insides and eat the hornworm alive. Larvae chew their way out through the skin when they mature.

1 Species ID Suggestions

Carolina Sphinx (Tobacco Hornworm)
Manduca sexta Species Manduca sexta - Carolina Sphinx - Hodges#7775 - BugGuide.Net

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ME 7 years ago

Thank you ForestDragon! It is a very interesting caterpillar.

ForestDragon 7 years ago

Yes, your caterpillar has seven diagonal white lines and a reddish horn. Manduca quinquemaculata has eight V shaped stripes. Even with the parasitoid infestation, you should be able to see the bottom part of those markings, like here: .

Another distinguishing characteristic is the color of the front legs (the true legs). Manduca quinquemaculata has green true legs, while Manduca sexta has white. Your caterpillar has white true legs.

As far as the color of the horn goes. Your caterpillar is not healthy and that can cause some color changes. I believe that dark reddish coloration is not uncommon with this species:

See what you think!

ME 7 years ago

The tobacco hornworm larva (Manduca sexta) is generally green with seven diagonal white lines on the sides and a curved red horn. The tomato hornworm has a black horn which is why I think this is the Manduca quinquemaculata.

ForestDragon 7 years ago

Sorry about that misspelling of the scientific name. This unfortunate caterpillar looks like the related Tobacco Hornworm. There are a few differences in markings and color of the front legs that can help distinguish this from Manduca quinquemaculata. Look here to compare:

Spotted by

Reston, Virginia, USA

Spotted on Aug 18, 2014
Submitted on Aug 18, 2014

Spotted for Mission

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