White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx caterpillar Looking for its next meal or a good place to become a moth
Looking for its next meal or a good place to become a moth

On a recent hike with a friend, Silvia, we came across a late instar of a White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) caterpillar that was probably looking for another plant to consume followed by a good place to pupate. Silvia nick-named him Gilberto.

The color and markings of this moth’s larvae varies. All the individuals I have seen in the area are black with yellow stripes and orange spots but the larvae can also be green with other markings such as red or orange spots encircled by black. A harmless horn at the back end is always present in this species regardless of coloration.

This video shows our brief encounter with Gilberto and includes some basic information about the White-lined Sphinx moth. Cyclists, hikers and runners in our area (Los Angeles and Ventura counties) have seen (and continue to see) lots of the caterpillars this spring.

A few days after our hike I was bicycling in the Santa Monica Mountains. I stopped to photograph flowers along the side of Decker Canyon road and noticed a White-lined Sphinx larva trying to climb up and repeatedly rolling back down a steep “hill” of loose dirt. I gave it a lift onto a “ledge” among a clump of Parry’s Phacelia before continuing on my ride.

(Parry’s is in a prolific phase of bloom in the mountains right now. Like poppies? Take a look at, but do not tread on, the phacelia.)

By S. Felton

S. Felton is a writer, photographer and amateur naturalist.

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