Currently viewing the tag: "Buggy Life Cycles"

Subject:  Metamorphosis of a Gray Bird Grasshopper
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Date: 09/15/2018
Time: 03:30 PM PDT
Daniel glanced at the carrot seeds that are ready to plant and noticed something unusual from a distance.  The backlighting on the wings of this newly metamorphosed Gray Bird Grasshopper caught the light beautifully.  Sure enough, the cast off exuvia was at the base of the plant.  The next day, after its wings had fully hardened, it was gone.

Metamorphosis of a Gray Bird Grasshopper

Exuvia of a Gray Bird Grasshopper


Subject:  Giant Grub
Geographic location of the bug:  Vista, CA
Date: 07/21/2018
Time: 02:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This big guy was spotted this afternoon making its way around and around the inside edge of a #3 pot where a small Cherimoya sapling is growing. I estimate it to be about 4″ long and nearly 3/4″ in diameter.
How you want your letter signed:  John L.

Giant Sphinx Hornworm

Dear John,
We have a general identification for you that we are certain about and a possible species identification that we would love verification on from an expert.  This is definitely a Hornworm, the caterpillar of a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, and because of the texture on the caudal horn that resembles members of the genus
Ceratomia like the Waved Sphinx Hornworm or the Four Horned Sphinx, we suspect it is a member of that genus or a related genus in the subfamily Sphinginae, but alas, we couldn’t match it to a single caterpillar on Sphingidae of the Americas California page.  Knowing a food plant is often very helpful, so we searched Sphingidae and Cherimoya and we found this unidentified individual from Peru in our archives that we now believe might be a Giant Sphinx Moth Caterpillar thanks to images and information on the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration site from the University of California, Santa Barbara in an article entitled Search for the Giant Sphinx Moth that includes this information:  “This meeting’s species of interest was the giant sphinx moth, Cocytius antaeus, which originates from Mexico and has never been recorded in California before its first appearance in Santa Barbara in 2015. Since then, Russell has documented 48 observations, and this number will likely increase as the weather warms and citizens (like you!) keep an eye out and report moth sightings to the Museum. … The giant sphinx moth prefers tropical climes. Prior to its appearance in Santa Barbara, it had only been found regularly in South America, Mexico, Texas and Florida, with a few records in Arizona. C. antaeus is unique in that its long proboscis makes it the only pollinator of the rare ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) of Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas. The moth has also been associated with the cherimoya tree (Annona cherimola), which produces fruits also called “custard apples” and is grown throughout Southern California. Where this tree is cultivated, it has to be hand-pollinated to bear fruit. Russell’s hypothesis is that the giant sphinx moth’s appearance in the States is directly linked to the transport and cultivation of cherimoya trees.”  If our identification is correct, the Hornworm you found might have been attempting to feed off the cherimoya in the pot, or perhaps, it was searching for good soft dirt in which to pupate.  Many Sphingidae larvae pupate underground, and many green caterpillars turn pink just prior to pupation.  Do you perhaps work in a nursery or have you recently purchased the cherimoya from a nursery that imports stock from Mexico?  Once we had a tentative ID, we went back to Sphingidae of the Americas and noticed that except for being green, the images of the Giant Sphinx Hornworms look very much like your individual, including the presence of a pink stripe along the dorsal surface.  We are going to try to contact Bill Oehlke to get his opinion on our identification. 

Hi Daniel, thanks for the quick reply. I have several Cherimoya trees, two in the ground, one of which was purchased at a local nursery more than five years ago, the other given to me by a friend about four years ago. The three potted trees I started from seed (variety unknown) three years ago. The tree in the pot where this caterpillar was found is the strongest of the potted trees and became root-stock this year for a couple of grafts from the five-year-old nursery tree, which has never done well and is in failing health, but produced one fruit that was delicious.
It is a mystery to me how this guy got into the pot in the first place. There are only two leaves on this tree that look to have been chewed, on their edges no less, and they are both more than four inches outside the radius of the pot. Furthermore, there is only a California Pepper tree above the pot.
Daniel/Bostjan, I will try to watch pupation. Right after I initially posted I mixed up a few cups of my compost and recycling yard compost (50-50), put it in a plastic jar and dropped the caterpillar into the 2-inch deep mix. Within an hour it disappeared under the surface. I spritz with water occasionally to moisten the soil surface. After receiving your message this morning I cleared away enough of the soil mix just to see if the big guy was still alive – yep. I left the soil mix and caterpillar as you can see in the pic (better camera). If you think I should transfer the caterpillar and the soil mix into the Cheimoya pot where I found it, I will do that. Please advise and I will do my best.
As I was about to send this message I went to take a look and since the big guy was moving I shot some video. If you are interested go here:


Giant Sphinx Pupating

Hi John,
Thanks for sending your video of a Giant Sphinx pupating.  We have included a still from the video in the posting.  It sounds like you are treating this Sphinx caterpillar appropriately.  We would love images of the pupa and adult if you are able to provide them.

Update:  August 26, 2018
Hi Guys,
Here are links to pics:
Pupa –

Adult –

Specimen got away before I could get a good shot of it fully developed.

Giant Sphinx: Newly formed pupa

Dear John,
Thanks so much for providing images of the metamorphosis of the Giant Sphinx,
Cocytius antaeus.  They are a wonderful addition to the image of the Hornworm you submitted last month.

Giant Sphinx

Pupated on 7-26-18 and hatched on 8-17-18 – just in case data was lost when uploaded.

Giant Sphinx

Subject: West Los Angeles sighting – Monarch 1
Location: West Los Angeles
July 6, 2017 8:26 am
Hi Bugman,
Here’s the first set of pictures of Monarchs
Signature: Jeff Bremer

Mating Monarch Butterflies

Dear Jeff,
Thank you so much for sending your gorgeous images documenting the complete life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.  It is going to take us a healthy chunk of time to format all your images and set up the posting properly so we are just starting by posting an image of a mating pair of Monarchs.  The male is the individual with the open wings, and the female appears to have been tagged because her hind wings have what appears to be an inked marking.  We can also identify the male, according to BugGuide, because:  “Males have scent-scale patches on hindwings, prominent when wings are open, and just possible to see when wings are folded.”  Over the course of the day, we hope to get all your excellent images added to the posting.

Male Monarch

Hi Daniel,
I don’t have complete life cycles for the rest of the butterflies that have graced our back yard, but I’ll send in what I have.  Regarding the Marine Blue, I can resend them with the other pics.  The ones I sent seemed to have unusual coloring.
By the way, I want to thank you for so graciously accepting my pictures.  It makes me happy to be able to share them.

Female Monarch

Nectaring Monarchs

Ovipositing Female Monarch

Monarch Egg

Monarch Caterpillar Hatchling

Monarch Caterpillar

Prepupal Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis (adult about to emerge)

Newly Eclosed Monarch

Emerged Adult Monarch

Monarch Nursery

Subject: West Los Angeles sighting – Gulf Fritilary – 1
Location: West Los Angeles
June 20, 2017 1:52 pm
Hi Bugman,
Here’s the next set of pictures. Hope you enjoy them.
Signature: Jeff Bremer

Mating Gulf Fritillaries

Dear Jeff,
It is going to take a chunk of time to correctly edit the posting to contain your awesome images depicting the life cycle of the Gulf Fritillary,
Agraulis vanillae, a common Southern California butterfly.  We have decided to begin the posting with your awesome image of a pair of mating Gulf Fritillaries, a logical place to begin a life cycle, and we will add to the posting as we reformat your images. This has prompted us to initiate a new tag of Buggy Life Cycles to house both this and your previous Anise Swallowtail documentation.

Gulf Fritillary ovipositing on passionvine.

Hatchling Gulf Fritillary caterpillar (right)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Pre-Pupal Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Pre-Pupal Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar with, possibly, a parasitic Wasp (right)

Hi Daniel,
This is the second time you’ve spotted a parasitic wasp in one of my pictures.  Is there anything I can, or should, do about this?  I understand the wasp has as much right to exist as the butterflies, but I can’t help feeling protective over the caterpillars.
Thx, Jeff

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

Sorry Jeff,
We can’t think of a way for you to protect the early stages of butterflies from parasitoids unless you raise the caterpillars in a container with a fine mesh screen.

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Ed. Note:  Our editorial staff will be on holiday for a few weeks, so we are post-dating submissions to go live during our absence.  We hope you enjoy this gorgeous series of images of the life cycle of the Anise Swallowtail

Subject: West Los Angeles sighting – Anise Swallow Tail #1
Location: West Los Angeles
June 1, 2017 12:19 pm
Hi Daniel,
Here’s the first of my sets of pictures you asked me to trickle in. Since I can attach only 3 images, I’m going to send in 4 sets for the swallow tail. If this is too much, please let me know.
Hope you enjoy these.
Signature: Jeff Bremer

Anise Swallowtail Eggs

Thanks Jeff,
We will put together a nice life cycle posting with the images you have sent.  We will distill them down to the best images and we will postdate your submission so it goes live during our absence mid month.  We feel we have to provide you with a challenge though.  Your spectacular life cycle images are lacking critical two stages.  We hope someday you can capture the actual emergence of the adult from the chrysalis, and of course, we always love to post images of mating insects to our Bug Love page.

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar: Early Instar

Newly hatched Anise Swallowtails somewhat resemble bird droppings which may help to camouflage them from predators.

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillars

As they grow and molt, later instars of the Anise Swallowtail Caterillar take on the characteristic green color with black and yellow spots.

Anise Swallowtail with Osmetrium

When threatened, the Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar reveals its osmetrium, a forked orange organ that releases a foul smell to deter predators.

Prepupal Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

As pupation time nears, the Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar spins a silken girdle to help keep it from hanging down.

Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis with Chalcid Wasp

This Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis is being visited by a parasitoid Chalcid Wasp.  Here is a posting from BugGuide that shows a close-up of the Chalcid Wasp.  Butterfly Fun Facts has an excellent description of this Parasitoid, including:  “A healthy chrysalis will have light membranes between its abdominal segments. As wasps grow inside the chrysalis, the membranes turn dark.  Infected chrysalises turn darker and often have a reddish tinge to them.  Remember! When a chrysalis is first infected (eggs laid in the chrysalis) it will appear healthy, have the correct colors and shades, and will move normal. Once the wasp larvae have grown for a few days, the color of the chrysalis will darken.  A chrysalis that has a mature butterfly inside it will also turn dark the day before the butterfly emerges. If a butterfly is inside, you will see the wing pads the day before the butterfly emerges. If it darkens and wing pads cannot be seen, it is a danger sign.”  Unfortunately, a percentage of Swallowtail Chrysalides will never produce an adult if they are preyed upon by parasitoid Chalcid Wasps.

Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis

The Anise Swallowtail Chrysalis darkens just before an adult is ready to emerge.

Anise Swallowtail

This is a gorgeous, adult Anise Swallowtail.

Anise Swallowtail

Ovipositing Anise Swallowtail

And the cycle begins anew as a female Anise Swallowtail deposits her eggs on the host plant.


Subject: Argema mittrei life stages
Location: Madagascar
January 6, 2017 11:47 am
Dear Daniel,
with my best wishes for 2017, I’d like to send You a drawing with Argema mittrei life stages as a little Christmas present…
Signature: Bostjan Dvorak

Life Cycle of Argema mittrei by Bostjan Dvorak

Happy New Year Bostjan,
Thank you for submitting your beautiful drawing. 
Argema mittrei is really a beautiful Giant Silkmoth.  While we do not have any images on our site of that species, we do have an image of a relative from the African mainland, Argema mimosae, on our site.  We also have an image of what we believe to be the Caterpillar of Argema mimosae.  Perhaps you can let us know if that identification is correct. Mada Magazine has a nice article on the Madagascar Moon Moth or Comet Moth.