What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Xanthopan morgani caterpillar drawing
Location: Afrotropical area
May 1, 2016 4:08 pm
Dear Daniel,
today I’d like to contribute a drawn sketch of Xanthopan larva and pupa, which are seldom found and seen and have not yet been shown to public as photographs for quite some decennies now, a kind of mystery considering the role and popularity of the famous moth in contexts of coevolution theories and orchid pollination – and the fact that it is spread in the entire African rainforest zone including Madagascar, and not rare at all, according to reported findings of adults… Maybe it will inspire or help somebody to catch sight of one on leafs or on a twig of an Annona plant (Annona squamosa, A. muricata, A. reticulata and other Custard apple- relatives and a few vines (Xylopia, Uvaria) from the Annonaceae-family, on which the larvae reportedly feed, or eventually another plant species not yet known as its foodplant… ); it is blue-green with whitish lateral stripes and slightly hairy, similar to the neotropical Neococytius caterpillars…
Best Thanks and wishes for the wonderful and helpful site,
Signature: Bostjan Dvorak

Sketch of Xanthopan by Bostjan Dvorjak

Sketch of metamorphosis of  Xanthopan morgani by Bostjan Dvorak

Thanks so much Bostjan for allowing us to post your wonderful drawings of this marvelous moth whose existence was theorized by Charles Darwin many years before it was actually discovered since the great evolutionary theorist hypothesized such a moth must exist to pollinate the orchid from Madagascar with a blossom possessing a ten inch throat.  Darwin knew only a Sphinx Moth would have a proboscis long enough to extract the nectar.  We had to correct the perspective of your images and we also increased the contrast.  We hope our digital enhancements meet with your approval.  We hope that one day one of our readers will supply us with the images you so long to see.  The coiled sheath for the proboscis is amazing.

Sketch of larva and pupa of Xanthopan morgani by Bostjan Dvorak

Sketch of larva and pupa of Xanthopan morgani by Bostjan Dvorak

Update from Bostjan:  February 15, 2019
Subject:  Xanthopan morgani caterpillar
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Daniel,
on the 1st of May 2016, I submitted some sketches of the Xanthopan larva and pupa, which You kindly published and commented on this nice site, and I expressed my hope that, once in the future, sobebody may eventually find and document this caterpillar… It is a mysterious fact that this species’s larva has not been found for many decennies, maybe some 60 years or more, and there was no access to any picture of it so far…
Just imagine – this day has now arrived. – When looking for some unknown hawk-moth records, as every year, and combining the search with „Tanzania“, I finally happened to discover a further photograph of „un unidentified Sphingidae caterpillar“, taken by this Dutch photographer with the user name „Parhassus“during one of his expeditions to Tanzania: https://parhassus.weebly.com/moths-unidentified.html
which obviously shows a caterpillar of Xanthopan morgani, munchning leaves on a twig of an Annona species. The picture has been taken on 26th of June 2017 in the nature reserve Amani. I didn’t find it last year, as I typed in „unidentified larva from Tanzania“ instead of using the word „caterpillar“ – in order to avoid results with bulldozers…
Thus an animal finally appears after a search of more than 30 years! – The species seems to imitate mouldy fruits, as may also be the case in its neotropic relatives like Neococytius, Cocytius and Amphimoea.
Best wishes and Godbless to You and this great site – and happy Valentine’s day to everybody.

Thanks so much for the update Bostjan.  I wish it was possible to link to just the image of the Hornworm.

Update from Bostjan Dvorak:  May 11, 2019
2nd new record of a Xanthopan morganii larva by Sunchana Bradley
Dear Daniel,
just a new surprise about the Xanthopan morganii caterpillars – this record by Sunchana Bradley from Durban, SA, which I came across today, might show that the records may occur in a cumulative way – or that the species is getting slightly more common within the last few years…
Best wishes and a happy Mother’s Day,



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

6 Responses to Sketches of the Metamorphosis of Xanthopan morgani

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Thank You so much Daniel for so greatly mounting this sketch by the perfect perspective and contrast – and for Your wonderful comment!

    Best wishes

    • bugman says:

      You are most welcome Bostjan. Contributions like yours make our site what it is, and our readers have benefited greatly from the numerous identifications and corrections you have provided to our Sphinx Moth and Hornworm archives.

  2. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Dear Daniel,
    I was lucky again to find one more record of this species’ larva – on a photo taken by the photographer Tom Cabin in September of 2016 – when looking for “unidentified caterpillar from Congo” this Easter; the plant’s stem could be of an Annona senegalensis, but no leaf is visible. The nice bluish larva is a real attraction: https://collector-secret.proboards.com/thread/637/toms-butterfly-adventures?page=10.

    Have a great week and nice Holiday,

    • bugman says:

      Thanks Bostjan,
      Daniel needed to take a five week break from WTB? but he is now catching up on ignored mail.

  3. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Dear Daniel,

    For the Pentecostal day
    (on the last of this years’ May)
    a new record with delay:

    Few days after Easter, I happened to look for a “Hornworm from Tanzania” by the search engine – and when doing so, a colorful caterpillar appeared among other photo hits; despite it’s truly unusual colors, a closer look of it’s physiognomy revealed a further Xanthopan morganii caterpillar – obviously showing this species’ prepupal stage of the larva, i.e. the so called “prepupa” on the ground before final moulting, for the first time (on an accessible photo). Lau and Leesha Mafuru from the non-profit organization “Boma Africa” added the photo with the title “and… check out this amazing hornworm!” to the end of their blog contribution “2017 In a Nutshell”:

    < https://bomaafricasafaris.com/2018/01/15/2017-in-a-nutshell/

    The picture also shows that a few physiognomy details of this species' larva are amazingly similar, almost identical to those of the asian Cocytiini-member Cerberonoton rubescens. The beautiful orange-colored pattern, only appearing in the prepupal stage of the african species, may reflect a mimic or aposematic adaptation on the ground.

    Great Withsun days and wishes to You and all WTB members, with Thanks für the wonderful site

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for this update Bostjan, and also for your tireless research on the immature stages of Sphingids.

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