18 March 2013

Pawpaw Sphinx Moth

Yesterday, I stood up from nestling some mulch between a few happily blooming sedges to look at a very loud mockingbird that was singing a gorgeous tune. I spied it on the power lines running along the back of the yard as it quickly took flight toward my head. Knowing mockingbirds, I figured I was in for a little territorial, protected peck on the head. But instead, it hovered gently above my headed gracefully flapping its wings as it pecked at the pecan trunk leaning above me. It seemed to find what it had come for and took off back toward its perch, only to drop the gray moth from its beak about halfway. The mockingbird could see what I couldn't see, and somehow from more than 30 feet away too.

It spied this very nicely camouflaged pawpaw sphinx, Dolba hyloeus, which surely blends in with the bark very well. This is a new hawkmoth (Sphingidae) species record for us at The Grackle, making this 9 sphingid species found in the garden.

We don't have paw paws this far west (oh but how I wish that we did!), so I'm guessing that the caterpillar of this moth feasted on possum haw (Ilex deciduosa) or yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) around the garden and neighborhood. I'll have to keep an eye out for the little green beasties this spring.

Anyway, happy for me and the moth, but too bad for the mockingbird. Thus is the Way.


Misti said...

Very nice find! Sphinx moths are very cool! We videotaped one pollinating ghost orchids in Florida.

Nelson said...

Adults are active at night, while others feed at dawn, dusk, or during the day. Larvae feed day and night on woody and herbaceous plants ; some are serious pests of agricultural crops . Most species pupate in the soil, though some form loose cocoons in the leaf layer.

Unknown said...

I seen one for the first time this evening. It was feeding on a white Lilly bloom. I got a few pictures of it.