Huge Pale Green Caterpillar Crosses Road Near Sharbot Lake Ontario

One of the wonderful things about children is they find things on the road and bring them to you, like cigarette butts, sparkling gold nuggets, and this Waved Sphinx Moth Caterpillar. One late afternoon in mid-August we were out for a ramble along a dirt track near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, when my daughter spotted this creature crossing the ruts.

Photo of Waved Sphinx On Hand On NaturalCrooksDotCom

My first reaction was that it looks more like a green pinecone than these photos suggest. It would not be particularly eye catching in the leaf and needle litter under the trees.  However on a brown sandy strip of road, it was a bit more obvious. Especially since it was several inches long and as fat as a highlighter.


We brought it inside to get some good photos to help with identification later. It reminded me of the giant caterpillars you sometimes get on tomato plants, called Tomato or Tobacco Hornworms. I suspected, given the lack of any tomatoes or tobacco plants for several dozen miles that it was more likely a relative of some kind.

Waved Sphinx Caterpillar Near Sharbot Lake Ontario August

After shooting up a storm that would make the paparazzi proud, we took it back outside. Although we should have taken it back to the exact spot, it was now close to dusk. Instead, we placed it on the ground under the same types of trees that had been on either side of the road where it was crossing.

Waved Sphinx Digging Into Soil 1 on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Within seconds, it began to dig its way underground. In a minute, it was gone.
Later, when back in the land of internet connections and library books, we found the caterpillar looked most like those of the Waved Sphinx. The adult moth is rather drab and bark-like. Certainly sphinx moths are not uncommon in those woods, so that’s probably what it was.

Waved Sphinx Digging Into Soil 2 on NaturalCrooksDotCom

We weren’t at that location the following June. But hopefully, if we had been, we might have seen it re-emerge after its winter slumber: and fly off into the evening sky as a Waved Sphinx moth.

Join In
Have you found a giant caterpillar in your rambles? Was it a tobacco hornworm, a cecropia moth larva, or perhaps one of these Waved Sphinx youngsters? Please share your finds with a comment.

12 thoughts on “Huge Pale Green Caterpillar Crosses Road Near Sharbot Lake Ontario

  1. Thanks for the several photos – trying to figure out what I found this morning (in Colorado USA) and this is exactly it. Waved Sphinx. The kids think it’s very cool, especially my preschooler!

    • I’m glad you found one of these caterpillars. They are huge and when we found ours it made our day. I’m not an expert by any means and there are several sphinxes that look similar. If you’re not sure, I’ve found that bugguide.net is very good for getting confirmation of what kind of insects or bugs I’m looking at. Either way, these big moth caterpillars are neat to find: Your preschooler must be very proud!

  2. My dog was playing one of these this morning in the garden didn’t know what it was so I googled it. Notice it’s origin is Canada, I live in South Wales in the UK. :)

    • Cool! I don’t know for sure if it is the same sphinx as ours or not, but I suspect it may be a different type. The Waved Sphinx is usually only found in parts of North America. It’s likely a “cousin” of another very similar species. Either way, it’s great to find these guys. They’re surprisingly difficult to see since they only usually come down to ground level to pupate. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi I live in Plymouth in England and have found one of these in my garden however the point on its tale is blue!

    • Your find looks like a Sphinx moth caterpillar but I’m not enough of an expert to know which kind for sure. The two most common kinds found in gardens are Tobacco Hornworm and Tomato Hornworm. You might want to look at some photos of those two and see if it looks like your find.

      Thanks for sharing your photos!

  4. I was walking along a trail in the woods today in southern New Brunswick, Canada, and saw a green pine cone crawling accross the trail. It obviously got my attention, so I snapped a couple of pics with my phone and later googled what it was. (Yep, I googled “big green caterpillar that looks like a pine cone” and your website came up. Thanks for the quick identification!

  5. Hi! Thanks to your report I was able to identify my find. It happened to be this species. I found it under an Annona tree in Guatemala, at 2000 meters above sea level, in an area surrounded by pines and cypress trees.

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