I found a caterpillar in my garden in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is mostly black/brown, quite large, and has four white patches on its head. The tail has a small spotted white tip. It’s is about 10cm long Here is an image: The Catepillar Should I kill it, or is it safe to let it free. Will it destroy my garden?

  • 1
    Can you add what size it is? Mar 8, 2021 at 16:21
  • Looks to be in the Sphingidae family (Hornworms, Hawkmoths). Mar 12, 2021 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


African Death's Head Hawk moth, Acherontia atropos. The tail and head markings match. Last instar before making a cacoon.

Is it good? It will eat your potato or tomato leaves. It is nearly fully grown, maybe feed it some leaves and let it tunnel into soft dirt, and allow it to turn into a moth.

Wikipedia article says:

"Eggs are laid singly under old leaves of Solanaceae: potato especially, but also Physalis and other nightshades. However it also has been recorded on members of the Verbenaceae, e.g. Lantana, and on members of the families Cannabaceae, Oleaceae,[9] Pedaliaceae and others."


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