Monday, September 19, 2005

Caterpillars in the Garden

Labor Day was a good day for caterpillars. I found a couple of these sphingids ignoring the tomatoes and potatoes and chowing down on a solanaceous weed. These fellows grow up to be sphinx moths, sometimes called hummingbird moths because they resemble hummingbirds in size, shape, and behavior. I'm not a big lepidopteran fan, but I always enjoy these big moths.

Addendum: As an insect taxonomist, I'm always reluctant to slap a specific epithet on an insect if I haven't checked the key characters. I'm reasonably certain that these critters were tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta), but I didn't grab them and check the keys. I confess I also failed to identify the host plant by examining floral characteristics. The worms ate that part of the homework, so I can't tell you if they were on nightshade, or on some Physalis species. I am a lazy naturalist. I am overcome with guilt.

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