Recently I found a tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) on one of my pepper plants - or rather on the stalk of what had once been a pepper plant that was instead dinner for this guy. So, since I don't like killing things needlessly, I cut the stalk, pruned back a few of my tomato and pepper plants, and took him home to see how a hornworm changes.
I had no idea how different it was from the swallowtails!
So after eating all the chow provided it too got a bit wander-y, but this guy I put in one of those clear gallon ice cream buckets so it couldn't escape. Talking to friends and reading about this species, to morph into the pupal stage they dig down into the dirt, about a week after they've burrowed it's safe to unearth them. So I put a planter pot filled with dirt for it to burrow. One week later I went to carefully dig him out. Upon lifting the planter it sounded like something was shaking inside like a maraca, so I carefully dug, not sure what I'd find, there a few inches down was a great hollow space with the pupa inside. The pupa doesn't just sit there like a cocoon or chrysalis though, it can move, gyrating its lower half (insert disco reference here), probably to scare off predators. I know if I didn't read in advance that it could do that I'd be freaked out. So I moved the pupa to a plastic strawberry container and added some sticks for it to climb when it emerges.
Then just like that, 11pm, I'm getting ready for bed, when I hear an odd noise from the strawberry container. There it is, as big as the palm of my hand, a Carolina Sphynx Moth!
Beautiful bark colored wings, bright yellow spots running down both sides of its abdomen... a truly beautiful specimen.
But now the dilemma, I removed this specimen from its habitat for being a nuisance and to learn about its life cycle, so I can't rightly let it go to lay more eggs, but I don't like needlessly killing things. After thinking for a few days I ultimately decided to freeze it and continue to use it for educational purposes. Yesterday I put it in the freezer, in a few more days it will be a 'late' moth and I will be able to use it to learn to mount large winged creatures as well as get a closer look at its pieces and parts to fully understand how this type of moth functions.
Mounting and up-close study notes to follow!
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Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her husband and cat in Wooster where she is also a family portrait and nature photographer as well as grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.