Day 263 A Beautiful Caterpillar

I was as giddy as a school girl when I found this caterpillar in some bushes by my house. It was big, at least 3 inches long! I thought it might be a Tobacco Hornworm or Tomato Hornworm, but the yellow spikes on its head and horn are unlike those two species. Any help in identification would be greatly appreciated!

My camera’s battery died shortly after taking the two shots above. After my neighbor snapped off the branch to get a closer look at the caterpillar, I put it and the branch in my little plastic pet keeper while I considered keeping it for further observation. It rested the entire hour and a half that it took to recharge the battery, barely moving at all. It only became active right about the time the sun started going down. Since I couldn’t determine exactly which species I had found, I decided the most humane thing to do was to release it after a few more photos.

It would have been a great pleasure to watch this caterpillar transform into the butterfly or moth (probably moth) it will one day become. I just don’t have the heart to cage a creature that has always known freedom. Instead, I returned it to the bush where I found it and wished it well, wherever it may go. At least, I got a few great photos and a short video! 🙂

Update: 9.21.12The wonderfully helpful people over on Project Noah helped me identify this caterpillar as a Rustic Sphinx, Manduca rustica.

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