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Species Page - Ceratomia undulosa
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scientific name    Ceratomia undulosa    

common name     Waved Sphinx

Tree plantations (farmyards and shelterbelts), urban areas and riparian woodlands.

Adults are on the wing late May through June.

A large (7.5-11.0 cm. wingspan) long-winged grey moth with several black streaks and numerous darker wavy lines crossing the wings. The fine, somewhat diffuse wavy lines crossing the forewing in particular, combined with the large size and the dark and white markings on the thorax, are all diagnostic for undulosa in Alberta. The fringe of both wings is checkered black and white. The other large grey sphinx moths of Alberta have either a streaked as opposed to waved forewing (Sphinx chersis and S. vashti), or are mostly very dark grey or black (Sphinx drupiferarum and S. poecila). Royal Alberta Museum page

life history
The Waved sphinx is a nocturnal species which comes to light. Larvae can be found from mid-June to fall, and they overwinter in the soil as pupae. The Waved Sphinx tends to use mainly non-native tree species as hosts, and is thus most abundant where these have been planted such as cities or farmyards. They are most common in southern Alberta, but can be rather common some years in Edmonton. Their occurrence in Alberta may be a rather recent phenomena, as Ken Bowman, who resided in Edmonton and collected widely in Alberta until the early 1950's found it only in the Lloydminster area.

No concerns.

diet info
In Alberta, Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). Elsewhere also other species of ash, Lilac (Syringa sp.), Hawthorn (Crataegus), oak (Quercus) and others. Green ash appears to be a favored host, at least in Canada.

Widespread in North America east of the mountains. It is found throughout much of southern Alberta from about Edmonton south, east of the mountains.

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Comments (33)Add New Comment

Rich Johnson (2009-09-26)
I live in Phoenix, AZ and have a Butterfly Bush that is absolutely riddled with the caterpillar. Is there cause for concern. Nobody that has seen them can say that they have ever seen them here before.

gary anweiler (2009-09-27)
Hi Rich

It appears highly unlikely that the caterpillars on your butterfly bush are this species, as it is an eastern species not known to occur in AZ. Furthermore it feeds mainly on woody trees such as Ash and Lilac.

What you may have is larvae of a related species, the White-lined Sphinx, which can and does occur in large outbreaks in the SW, but the larvae look quite different.

Sorry I cannot be of more help !!.

Gary Anweiler

Faith (2010-05-05)
I just got a Ceratomia Undulosa caterpillar from my grandpa. I am just wanting to learn more about it...does anyone know more information? Thanks.

age 9

mike (2010-06-15)
I found half a dozen of caterpillars in my garden. We live in limassol cyprus in the eastern meditterranean. I am almost positive that I identified it correctly. Can it be considered an invassive species? and when I removed it from the tree it made a cliccking noise. Very strange for this part of the world.

vincent zamora (2010-08-01)
I found a very active light green ceratomia undulosa, larva, waved sphinx. 7 stripes (WHITE W/ BLACK DOTS) GOING IN SAME DIRECTION. with five bottom feet, with a curved pointed tail. found in covina ca, 91722 at 1:45pm sunny day.

Jennifer Gray (2010-08-24)
Ifound one of these catepillars in my tomato garden. It has white tubes on its back. What are these tubes? I am thinking of keeping it in a cage to see it become a moth...

Susanne Lewis (2010-09-03)
I have also found caterpillars w/ white tubes on its back. Ceratomia undulosa and its babies will become a moth. I found them on my tomato plants as well.

Dave young (2010-09-23)
I have found GIGANTIC caterpilllars this species feeding on my tobacco plants in south east pennsylvania. These are amazing creatuures and i have seen them grow to over 6 inches long. they are addicted to the nicotine I think and just cant stop eating. i keep picking them off, and more show up. they would have probrably destroy the entire plant if I did not prevent them. Does anyone know what kind of plants I should relocate them to? I do not want to kill them, but I also do not want them to ruin my tobacco harvest!

Felix Sperling (2010-09-25)
Are you sure that these are Ceratomia undulosa? It seems more likely that they are the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, which is a well known pest of tobacco. Try Google images to see a picture of that larva. I don''t know what other non-crop plant to move it too - most people consider it a major pest and are not so kind to it!

Marius Aurelian (2011-05-31)
I found a freshly emerged male (wings not inflated yet) climbing up an ash tree (on 88 Ave.) around 23:30 on May 27 (2011).

Marius Aurelian (2011-05-31)
I wanted to add that on May 31, 2011 around 22:00 i found two more adults (a male and a female) inflating their wings near the same place i found the first male. All adults (including the 1st male) were sitting on the bark at a height of 20-50 cm on the northward portion of the tree trunk. Wing inflation and hardening takes about 1.5 - 2 hours. I will try to see around what time females start calling.

This must be a very good year for this species.

Grant Robinson (2011-06-29)
I live in Consort AB and have taken several good closeups
of what I think is the Waved Sphinx. Found recently near
my back door. Are you interested in seeing them ?

Hilary Hunziker (2011-07-29)
We''re in Boulder, Colorado it''s July 29th. About 10 days ago we cut a small branch off our Ash tree for the kid''s swing. My son saw the Ceratomia Undulosa (as adult waved sphynx) on one of the leaves. We''ve kept it inside a large cooler with no lid and have been feeding it fresh bits of branch with leaves 2-3 times/day. It''s been great to watch and listen to it eat constantly. Today it stopped eating and had turned a pinkish brown. Only wandering around the edge of the cooler all day. I finally read that it pupates in loose soil!!! I quickly loaded a shoebox with soil from under the Ash tree and put it in the dirt. So quickly it dug itself under the dirt! Now I''ve read they Pupate over the winter. I wonder should we keep the box outside for it to go through the winter? Did I put enough soil in the box to keep it from totally freezing?

DG Duffy (2011-07-30)
WESTON. CT. Just found enormous (3.5 in) specimen eating my tomatoes - hell of an appetite - had consumed half a tomato this morning. I obviously does not know it is supposed to be nocturnal, as it was chomping away at noon on a warm sunny day

Rebecca Wells (2011-08-05)
I live in Peterborough united kingdom and looking a phots etc i''m 100% I had the caterpillar form on the side of my house in my back garden........didn''t know if this would be of interest as looking at the facts its not common in the uk!

Phil Souza (2011-09-02)
Found 5 large (enormous) Ceratomia undulosa larvae feasting on our vegetable garden here in Bermuda. They were specifically eating the egg plant, sherry pepper, jalopeno plants. We were wondering if they were common to this island. Could someone help us? We could send pictures, but we''re certain that we''ve identified them properly.


victoria beach (2011-09-04)
i found this green caterpillar with a spike so i looked it up and it really looks like the waved sphinx. i live in conesus ny.. never seen one like this before

Felix Sperling (2011-09-04)
You can find more information on the broader distribution of Ceratomia undulosa on the BAMONA site at:
I don''t know about Bemuda, but considering the broad range and flight ability of the species, it would be quite reasonable for it to occur there too.

john jobes (2011-10-09)
i have found some Waved Sphinx larva in my gardens in texas as well if you are looking for another plant for them to reside on, they love the leafs of jalapeno peppers and they are real easy to grow i have a 10g tank and put a mixture of dirt in it and toss the seeds in the dirt and most of them will grow i got around 60 plants off of one jalapeno pepper

JB (2012-05-24)
To Gary,

They apparantly have made it to the SW United States. I'm in Dallas Texas and I just had one destroy one of my young bananna pepper plants. It ate every leaf on the dang thing. I have it in a jar, and there is no doubt it is a Waved Sphinx larva.

Gary Anweiler (2012-05-25)
Please note that a number of comments on this page are referring in error to one or more species of sphinx moth other than C. undulosa. Many sphinx species look very similar and are easily misidentified. In particular, any comments mentioning larvae feeding on plants such as pepper or tobacco almost certainly refer to species OTHER THAN undulosa. Ceratomia undulosa is known to feed only on members of the Family Oleaceae (Olives), which includes the trees known as Ash (Fraxinus)the most common host used by undulosa; other Oleaceae known to have been used by undulosa larvae include Privet and Fringe-tree (Ligustrum and Chionanthus; both are also members of the family Oleaceae.

Lisa Whaley (2012-07-18)
I found a Ceratomia undulosa larva near my Ash tree here in SW Texas area, but have been unable to find much information. It looks exactly like this picture and is light green with white slashes and a white tail, approx the lentgth of my baby finger. I too have the caterpillar in an aerated jar as I would like to see it metamorphose - is this possible? What would I need to do to enable this process to occur?

Felix Sperling (2012-07-20)
The larvae pupate in soil but then need to overwinter before they emerge as adults. But it should be interesting even to see it become a pupa, and for that you should give it a thin layer of soil at the bottom of the jar - not so thick that you can't see it when it digs down to pupate.

Raina M. (2012-07-27)
I live in MN and have found these caterpillars on my tomato plants in my garden. We have had a ton of these pesky moths since late spring and it looks like many more will be coming.

dave corey (2012-08-06)
I just found a Ceratomia Undulosa in south eastern Quebec near the Vermont border. It's amazing how fast it can move on land. I think it is in a hurry to pupate. At first I thought it was a tomato hornworm but it is different.

Raina M. (2012-08-22)
I take back my comment. I believe mine are Tomato Hornworm Caterpillars. They look very similar. :-/

Greg Polkosnik (2013-06-26)
I found a giant moth sitting on the sidewalk outside West Edmonton Mall last night at about 9:30. It seemed rather stunned so I was able to pick it up and put it back in the ash tree. It immediately began to climb up the bark like it was home again. I took a lousy cell phone picture of it; it blends so well into the bark that it's almost impossible to see. The marks on the back of its head (plus the fact that it feeds on ash) have me convinced that this is what I found. Wow! It nearly covered my palm!

Lisa V (2013-08-05)
The egg sacs are those of a parasitic wasp called the Braconid wasp. Let the eggs hatch, and you'll have an army of wasps ready to defend your garden against all types of pests that when the tubes hatch, feed on the caterillar. So if yo see the tubes on your worm, be assured that it will die on its own.

Rebekah (2013-08-25)
My kids just found a caterpillar in Sherwood Park that looks like a tomato hornworm. But it's the end of August. Shouldn't it be a moth already?

Carol Doster (2013-09-12)
I found a Ceratomia Undulosa, at lease that what It looks like from the pictures I have seen. I live in Lancaster California, and planted three tomato plants. The tomato's were being eaten by something. I found four of them in my plants. I picked them out and put them on a tree. One of them, as I was petting his back with a stick turned his head around and bit the branch, as to take a bite out of it. MY question is, is this a normal behavior for the Caterpillars. Are they dangerous to be around. This is September 12, 2013.

Stephanie (2014-08-09)
I live in Connecticut and have found one of these creatures on my tomato plant. It is covered in white tubes. Are these eggs? I have taken pictures. I could send one in if you'd like to see it.

David G Larson (2016-05-09)
Have a photo of the Waved Sphinx, Ceratomia undulosa, in Camrose AB on 9-05-16. Appears to be much earlier than in the species info. Photo credit: Tye Dubrule. Interested in the photo?
Dave Larson

Abigail (2016-10-30)
I'm overwintering a Ceratomia undulosa. I just want to make sure it is ok for it to remain inside my home over winter. I don't want it emerging too early because of warmth. Should I keep it outside. I live in IL so winters get below 0 at times.

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Related Species Info
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References (5)
Specimen Info
There are 11 specimens of this species in the online database
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Adult Seasonal Distributioncreate a collection histogram with specimens
Specimen List (11)
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