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what’s That Worm?


You may be familiar with the tomato hornworm, but do you know what this worm is? You can usually find it on papaya or poinsettia.

It is Erinnyis ello, the ello sphinx.  The caterpillar is sometimes called the cassava hornworm.  It breeds year-round in south Florida.  Occasionally it is common enough to be a pest of poinsettia.  Field-collected caterpillars will switch to feeding on poinsettia, so they are easy to rear.  They pupate above the soil in leaf litter, and the pupa appears highly polished, black and orange in color.  Larvae are solitary feeders in all instars and hide along the mid-vein on the leaf underside while not feeding.  The larvae exhibit more color variations than most Erinnyis species, including the green morph (most common), a tan morph, a purplish morph, and a brown-gray mottled morph.  

It has a marking that looks like an eye. This helps to scare away predators.