Caterpillar of the day - Ceratomia amyntor (Sphingidae)

Ceratomia amyntor (Sphingidae)

This species is better known as the Elm Sphinx or the Four-horned Sphinx. The first name relates to the caterpillar's diet (elm trees, but also birch, basswood, and cherry). It's second, more bad-ass, name comes from the 4 horn-like projections the protrude from the anterior end (i.e., not including the anal horn that characterizes sphingid larvae). Like many sphingids, at the end of the caterpillar life-stage they head down to the base of its host plant and pupate underground. Here is a photo of a late instar C. amyntor caterpillar:

Live caterpillar: Ceratomia amyntor (Sphingidae) [Photo from]

Looks to me like this guy would be incredibly cryptic on those big elm leaves. Apparently, there is some variation in the colour of these larvae, including brown, orange, and pink-brown. Curiously, the oblique stripes seem to match the venation pattern of the foliage, perhaps enhancing crypsis.

Below is a box of inflated specimens of Ceratomia amyntor from the Canadian National Collection of Insects (CNC). Amazingly, these specimens are from 1900-1912. 

Inflated larval specimens of Ceratomia amyntor (Sphingidae)

Specimen details for the above photo:
Left: Location unknown (Aug 27 1900)
Centre: from Bridgetown, N.S (Sept 17 1912)
Right: Collected in Ottawa, ON (July 31 1901)

I most would agree, the caterpillar's beauty far outmatches that of the relatively drab adult below:

Live adult: Ceratomia amyntor (Sphingidae) [Photo from]

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  1. Sphingid caterpillars are so fat and adorable! Love all the fuzzy horns on this guy.