What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

rustic sphinx moth question
Location: Galveston County, Texas
November 5, 2010 9:14 am
Found one in our back yard, identified it via your website. We live in a newly-constructed suburban development and there is almost nothing for it to eat here. If we were going to raise it to moth-hood, what should we provide in the way of food?
Signature: steeleam

Rustic Hornworm

Dear steeleam,
Pointy finger is a nice use of scale.  We are of the opinion that if a caterpillar is feeding upon a plant, that plant must be a single diet, a preferred food, an unknown opportunity or a wildlife corridor away from a food source.  Hopefully it is #2 because that allows for a divergent population of Rustic Hornworms that is most likely to survive to adulthood.  Is there some reason you doubt that the plant upon which you discovered this Rustic Sphinx is not an appropriate food?  That would be our first guess, but we cannot determine the plant species, though it looks vaguely like a Fuschia.  You can research preferred food plant on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  We are beginning to have our dissatisfaction with the common names for the members of the family Sphingidae.  Sphinx and Hornworm should only be used for the caterpillar because of its preferred pose and its anatomical features.  Hawkmoth should be reserved for the nocturnal species and Hummingbird Moth for the diurnal.

thanks for writing me back.  I didn’t explain myself clearly.  I found that caterpillar in one of my potted plants, a lantana.  The plant was almost totally consumed by that point, not much more food left available for the critter.  So I was wondering what else I could feed it.  Because we live in a newly-built neighborhood, not much else has been planted yet here.  It wasn’t as simple as transfering him to another plant, because there are none.
I kept it in a large container and provided fresh lantana leaves for about a day, but it did not eat and appeared to be under stress, alternately going into some kind of rigor mortis and then waking back up again.  So I placed it on the soil below the lantana.  It promptly burrowed into the ground, so perhaps it was time to coccoon.

The behavior you describe is consistent with metamorphosis.  Sphinx Caterpillars do not cocoon.  A cocoon is spun from silk and the Sphinx Caterpillar will simply molt into a bare pupa.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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