06 August 2010

critters: Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars

Isn't that just a beautiful caterpillar? I found this one and another munching away on our coral honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) yesterday. First, I noticed the frass on the ground, and then looking up found the culprits.

This is really exciting! These are the larvae of the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee hawkmoth (Hemaris diffinis), one of the most beautiful of the sphingid moths. It is one of the rare day flyers, and has evolved to mimic the bumblebee. Potential predators likely steer clear because they think they'll get stung.

I love the golden crown on the caterpillar's head. It's an easy way to recognize these.

The adults fly and reproduce two or maybe three times a year, and apparently the fall brood caterpillars might be brown instead of green. Here's a photo of an adult I snapped feeding on a Texas mountain laurel flower this past spring (iPhone photo, sorry).

So, if you plant a coral honeysuckle vine, you can help support these beautiful pollinators!


David, Melanie and family said...

Wow! What a cool moth and caterpillar. I've never heard of such, but we do see the almost mystical 'garden fairies' at dusk drinking from garden phlox here in Houston. They seem to me to be about the size and 'feel' of a small hummingbird. I've never been able to take a picture of one. Thanks for the info on this moth.
David (Tropical Texana) :-)

ESP said...

Yes, yes yes!

What a great shot of the Hemaris diffinis caterpillar!!! Stunning, how about that golden princess crown?

You are capturing some fantastic insects over there at the Grackle.

Informative as ever...ESP.

Roberta said...

For awhile we were inundated with saltmarsh caterpillars - very fuzzy black things. They seem to be gone for the most part and the popular critter at the moment is grasshoppers. So much jumping and crawling and hopping out there. Who knew!

Linda said...

The moth on your mountain laurel is not the same species as your bumblebee moth. This one is H. thysbe. It's larvae eat the same plants. You can also find Hemaris cats on any Viburnum and American Beauty berry.

Lee said...

Linda, What makes you say this is H. thysbe? I was thinking H. diffinis because of the very apparent yellow bars across the end of the abdomen. H. thysbe seems to have an all dark abdomen and a greener thorax color overall...

The conductor said...

H. Thysbe doesn't have the spots it seems.