15 July 2008

Desert Willow Hawkmoth

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.


Sue said...

Those are so pretty, I love hawkmoths too. How nice they are reproducing in your yard! I didn't even know desert willow was a host plant for them, how cool.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen these before, amazing camouflage, very cool - I will check out my desert willow very carefully tomorrow! What are the other host plants they like?

Rock rose said...

We have hawk moths galore in our garden but I don't know what species they are. I assume the tomato horn worm is one variety as the caterpillars are very similar. I have seen them demolish a Missouri primrose in short order.