Location: Sand Dunes, Southeast Idaho, Fremont County, east of Saint Anthony
June 7, 2011 11:08 pm
This photo was taken in 1984 at the Sand Dunes in Southeast Idaho, Fremont County. I watched for 15-20 minutes while this . . . thing made this pattern in the sand. It would scoop up a pile of sand, push it out in the fan/petal shape, scoop up a pile of sand, push it out . . . I have recently re-engaged in my quest to find out what I was watching.
Any ideas what it is?
Signature: Bug Lover’s Cousin
Dear Bug Lover’s Cousin,
We have no idea what this creature is and we would love to help you solve this more than 25 year old mystery. We do not believe this is an insect. You did not indicate the size of the creature. We are more inclined to believe it is reptilian than one of the arthropods, but that is pure speculation. We are boarding a plane in a few hours and we will be out of the office for a week, and during that time we will not be checking emails, so we will not be able to provide any further assistance until we return. Our regular readership will be able to post updates to this posting, however, any new readers will need to wait until next week to have their comments approved. We hope we are eventually able to provide you with an identification.
Going on my 25 year old memory of this thing I will venture – it was:
maybe 2-4 inches long (not positive I EVER saw the end of it but I think I did)
about 2-2.5 inches circumference
entirely black except for the tip (head?) which was reddish
I saw no legs or mouth
it moved like a worm or caterpillar (a larvae?)
didn’t seem to be ingesting anything, just kept making the pattern
My brother was with me at the time and agrees with this description
Enjoy your time out of the office, I look forward to any info/guesses you might have.
Karl provides an alternate possibility: White Lined Sphinx
October 26, 2011
Hi Daniel and Bug Lover’s Cousin:
It is a little hard to tell from the photo but based on what is visible and your description I suspect that this is a large caterpillar. There are a number of species that burrow into soft soil or sand to pupate. I suggest that a good candidate would be a White-Lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata). Caterpillars of the species show considerable color variation but are generally striped or mottled green and black, and orange or reddish caudal horns and/or head capsules are quite common (to me it looks like it may be showing a horn). You could check out this interesting video to see if the behavior looks familiar. Here is another image from the Bugguide site. Regards. Karl
Thanks Karl for your alternative possibility.