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!