Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

2013 June 5

On July 13, 2012, Sandy found this caterpillar crawling on one of Sam’s dresses that had fallen off of the clothesline and laid on the grass for a while.

This is clearly a sphinx moth caterpillar, it has the characteristic single horn on the rump. But, I had trouble figuring out which one, because I couldn’t find anything that was green with a light-purple back like that.

When I posted it on BugGuide, Peter Homann pointed out where I had gone wrong. He IDed it as a Snowberry Clearwing caterpillar, Hemaris diffinis, which are normally green, but develop that purple back just before they pupate. The other ID features also match, like the white speckles, the black spots running down the sides, the dark tail horn with yellow patches at the base,

and the row of bright yellow bumps running over the head.

It pupated just after we caught it, and when the pupa didn’t emerge after two months we figured that this was one of the ones that needed to overwinter, so we put it in the refrigerator for a couple of months, and then brought it back to room temperature. It didn’t work out, though. I think it needed some moist soil or leaf litter to burrow into to avoid drying out.

The Snowberry Clearwing is a day-flying sphinx moth with a yellow-and-black body and transparent wings, which are unusual for a moth (although any moth or butterfly will have transparent wings if the colored scales on the wings get rubbed off). They look like bumblebee mimics.

The caterpillars mostly eat honeysuckle. And surprise, surprise, there is what I think is a honeysuckle bush growing about 50 feet from our clothesline. Well within crawling distance for a caterpillar looking for a place to pupate.

One Response
  1. June 5, 2013

    Fantastic photography again.

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