Number 68 • August 3, 2009 • Jeffrey K. Barnes

Tersa sphinx
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sphingidae
Genus and species: Xylophanes tersa (Linnaeus)

Tersa sphinxTersa sphinx caterpillar

Caterpillars of the tersa sphinx moth are sometimes found feeding on foliage of starclusters (Pentas species) in Arkansas flower gardens. They have also been recording feeding on buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra Michx.), firebush, Manettia, strongbark, wild coffee, and other woody plants. The caterpillars come in brown and green forms. They are eerily snake-like, and the head and three thoracic segments can be withdrawn into the swollen first abdominal segment, which is adorned with a pair of realistic eye spots. This species resides throughout South and Central America. In North America, it resides in Mexico and states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, but it also migrates north to New England, Michigan and Nebraska. An occasional stray can be found in southern Canada. Mature larvae probably form pupae in subterraneanchambers or in leaf litter. Adults begin feeding at dusk on nectar from honeysuckle, four o’clocks, and other flowers. They are readily identified by the long, pointed abdomen and jagged black markings on the hind wing, contrasting with the yellow median area. The front wings are pale brown with inconspicuous darker brown lines.