What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Large brown hard shell Grub with tail?
Location: Madeira Island, Atlantic
October 6, 2013 5:58 pm
Today I was down in my vegetable patch collecting my clothes pegs that my daughter had dropped over the wall and I noticed this rather strange looking grub like insect partly submerged in a hole. It is fairly big 3.5 inches long and fat. It has a hard brown ”shell” and at first I thought it was a large Cockroach, until I removed it completely from its hole! You will see it also has a funny tail! It didn’t run or move much so that is why I think it is a grub. Potatoes have recently been pulled from the vegetable patch. What is my funny grub????
I have recently moved here from the UK and keep finding so many ”new” insects!
Signature: bermysunshine

Hawkmoth Pupa

Hawkmoth Pupa

Dear bermysunshine,
We can provide you with a family identification, but anything more specific is speculation.  This is the pupa of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae.  The case for the proboscis, which resembles the handle on a jug, is characteristic of many species.  Your pupa resembles that of a Hawkmoth Pupa from Australia identified as
Agrius convolvuli According to the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website, you are within the range of the species.  The site identifies larval food plants as belonging to “Convolvulaceae and Fabaceae, but there are records from 16 other families” and the genus Solanum is mentioned.  The scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum.  We believe your pupa is Agrius convolvuli.  There is a North American species, the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth, that has a similar pupa, which you can verify on BugGuide.   Larvae feed on plants in the potato family, according to BugGuide.  If we are to believe Wikipedia, the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth has been reported from Portugal so it might be your pupa.  The two species are in the same genus, and they are closely related. 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Madeira Island

3 Responses to Hawkmoth Pupa from Madeira Island

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Yes, this is a pupa of Agrius convolvuli, the Convolvulus hawkmoth. Great discovery, congratulations! Madeira belongs to the migrating territory of this species, and it is also probable that it stationary breeds there all over the year. On the other hand, we cannot exclude a specimen of the closely related Agrius cinqulatus from the New World either, as both are known to occasionally cross the ocean during their migratory flights, and some individuals of the other species are regularly seen on westernmost african and european coasts – and vice versa. The neotropic species is a little bit more pinkish, as to the moth, and the larva has a slightly different pattern, but it is completely impossible to distinguish their pupae. (You can probably often see some impressive grey creatures with reddish stripes hovering above the flowers at dusk and feeding with a very long proboscis, eg from tobacco, four-o-clocks and capers.) The caterpillar’s foodplant are not the potato crops (Solanum) however, but the little morning glory (Convolvulus arvensis or Calystegia saepium) accidentally growing among those, preferably on cultivated fields – except in the case of “sweet potatoes” (Ipomoea batatas), which also belongs to the Convolvulaceae family and can serve them for food as well. Agrius is the only known hawkmoth genus with specimens evidentially crossing oceans on their own, all related species seem to be rather transported by human traffic to distant islands, there are 5 other species known from the Bermudas, eg.. This is quite interesting, since the relatives are not weaker fliers at all, but seem to shun open seas.

    Due to the mild climate of Madeira, You can probably observe this nice species all over the year constantly breeding in continuous generations, but it would be very interesting to know something about their seasonal rhytm…

    Best wishes from Berlin,

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for your wonderful insights Bostjan.

      • Bermysunshine says:

        Thank you Bugman and Bostjan for the identification all the information on my find!

        I put the pupa back exactly where it was discovered but it kept uncovering itself, so I figured this is what it wanted so I left it exposed. It was there a few days but now it has disappeared, so he has either burrowed back down himself, hatched, or been eaten (hopefully not the last).

        Originally I forgot to mention that I had a lot of sweet potatoes mixed in with the regular ones, so this matches the caterpillars feeding habits.

        Thanks again!

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