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Larval, dude.

It’s squishy and voluminous, bulbous-headed and bulgy. Plus, it engulfed every single leaf of a poor little potted chile, covering the soil below with drifts of black frass, but… it’s REALLY GREEN, and I think it’s pretty spectacular, in its way. It’s a hornworm — I’m not sure which — which makes it the larva of one of the Sphinx moths. Two days after I took this photo (do click to enlarge, I loaded a file as monstrously huge as this caterpillar is), it disappeared: it must have plopped to the ground below the plant to bury itself a few inches down in the soil to pupate. Then it will emerge as a moth. I’m trying to imagine what it looks like when a full-grown sphinx moth — a creature of the night air — emerges from dirt. Imagine!

Check the sparse, sparkly polyester-looking hairs on its back, the bristles on the “feet” of its fleshy, blunt prolegs. And the golden “portholes”. What a machine! We’re watering the now leafless chile plant, hoping the frass dissolves and the plant can re-process the nutrients from its own devoured, caterpillar-bypassed leaves to grow more. (Photo A.Shock)


Posted by Allison on Jun 12th 2013 10:31 am | 4 Comments
| View close in,cool bug!,Invertebrata,natural history,nidification,yard list category

4 Responses to “Larval, dude.”

  1. robertaon 12 Jun 2013 at 12:22 pm link comment

    Oh we used to have those on our tomato plants. They are so huge and they can eat an entire plant in a day…..

    I did find a way to get rid of them though. Warning: it is kind of gross.

    I put one in the blender and whizzed it. Then I sprayed that solution on the plants. I never had another one after that. I don’t think they like eating their brethren.

  2. Allisonon 12 Jun 2013 at 8:38 pm link comment

    This guy really did eat an entire plant in a day, well, at least the leaves. But we let him go at it. I don’t have the heart to do away with them. Or if I had to, I’d flip him off the plant and out into the open for the thrashers. They’re about the only yard birds beefy enough to wrangle one of these!

  3. sueon 15 Jun 2013 at 8:21 am link comment

    Nice photo! Those markings remind me of a 30’s art deco luxury auto, somehow. ??
    …a bit of compost tea or worm castings should nudge the pepper out of shock. It has a nicely established root system, so not like starting out from scratch. (I’m growing shishito frying peppers this year and they’re setting despite our June Gloom fog)

  4. Allisonon 15 Jun 2013 at 9:18 am link comment

    Thanks, Sue! In fact the pepper is already recovering, and is covered with tiny new leaves along the stems and leaf junctions. Worm castings it already has — in the form of the caterpillar’s droppings of its own processed leaves! Just add water!
    It is VERY art deco, clean and functional but a little over the top in an orderly geometrical way. If it had wheels, it’d have those big white-walled balloon tires!

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