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!
This beautiful moth has been making its presence known all over Ohio this past month including in my own back yard! The photo doesn't do it justice but this is one of the larger moths I've found - not quite as large as a luna but much larger than most other moths (roughly the length of an index finger).
The Giant Leopard Moth spends the winter as a 'giant woolly-bear' type caterpillar black, fuzzy, with reddish/orange rings, it overwinters from August - May (depending on location); it is now pupating and transforming into the beautiful moth shown above.
These common moths can be found in woody edges, meadows, pastures, parks, etc. the caterpillars are not picky eaters and enjoy what we consider 'weeds' and many other broad leaved plants with woody stems.
Great summer activity -
Go out one summer evening and hang a white sheet from a tree, have a flashlight shine on it for a few hours and see what moths you can attract to your own yard!
You have probably seen one before and just didn’t know.
If you’ve ever been in your flower garden or near a buzzing field of wildflowers on a sunny, summer day and said to yourself, “well, that’s a funky lookin’ bee”.
Congratulations! You’ve just spotted a humingbird moth!
Or, more accurately, a Hummingbird Clearwing, a moth in the genus Hemaris.
There are 3 Hemaris species that occur in this region, those being the hemaris thysbe (Hummingbird Clearwing, shown here), Hemaris diffinis (Snowberry Clearwing) and Hemaris gracilis (Slender Clearwing). The differences between each are very subtle amounting to a mere patch or band of color on the underside.
The olive-green into burgundy coloring on the thorax and abdomen would make a pretty decent color combination for any football team and the hues of red and brown on the edges of the wings are pretty snazzy as well but arguably the most interesting feature of this moth are the clear patches.
As you can see the clearwings are diurnal (daytime) moths and using their proboscis to feed on nectar from trees and flowers such as honeysuckle, hawthorne and snowberry. This one in particular was loving his bee balm.
Clearwings are normally found in any of the usual places you would expect bugs; second-growth forests, meadows and, occasionally, your very own garden.
Though it is commonly mistaken for a bumblebee one of the easiest ways to spot the difference is that while bees will land on the flower to collect pollen the clearwing will not. It will remain in flight for the duration of it’s feeding in the same manner of a hummingbird. Thus leaving little wonder how it got it’s name.
They are migratory which means that they are only here during the warmer months (April-August), so what are you waiting for? Go out and find one while they’re still here!
-Noah Klenovich is an amateur photographer and nature enthusiast. You can view his work at nklen.smugmug.com
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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.