Speaking of the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), John's mom and I were admiring its pink and white, orchid-like blooms when I spotted this fellow:
Upon further inspection of the plant, I found 2 more. These are hawkmoths (if you read this blog regularly, you may know they are one of my all time favorite types of insects). This particular species is Manduca rustica. More on these moths here. These are truly beautiful creatures--check out those sleek blue-gray lines along the side of the caterpillar.
Like a zebra, it very obviously messes with my visual perception, camouflaging them from me and other predators. It's as if they evolved to match the shadows and leaf shape of the desert willow, but in fact, the desert willow and other plants in the begonia family are only some of their host plants.
Interestingly, the 3 larvae that I found are all clearly of different ages, ranging from just over an inch long to about 4 inches (this baby below is probably about to find a place to dig a hole in the ground and pupate).
I wonder if the larvae are from the same brood, but just hatched at different times? Are they from the same female, but she layed eggs on various nights? Or maybe their moms are completely different from each other?
I haven't seen the adults flying around, quietly exploring by garden. But I sure am happy they found it.