Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hornworms and Hawkmoths

I often find giant green hornworms on tomato vines in our summer garden but this year I noticed hornworms on the vitex tree instead.

camouflaged hornworm on vitex tree


rustic sphinx munching a leaf





The hornworm is much easier to see on a bare branch.

Goldfinches watched the caterpillars from the mesquite tree.




Hummingbirds were curious too!





A hornworm from last year demonstrating the classic sphinx pose:

tobacco hornworm on bell pepper plant

For several years, I assumed the large green caterpillars on my tomato plants were tomato hornworms, but now I see that they look more like tobacco hornworms (Carolina sphinx) or Rustic sphinx larvae.

Tomato hornworms have eight v-shaped markings on each side where tobacco or rustic hornworms have seven diagonal white lines.

Hornworms morph into sphinx moths, also known as hummingbird moths that can hover in mid-air feeding on flower nectar as hummingbirds do.  Another name for sphinx moth is hawk moth, due to their long narrow wings and powerful flight.

Two years ago I found a rustic sphinx moth on the ground under the vitex tree.  It held onto my fingers, exercising its wings, having perhaps just emerged from underground and not able to fly yet.


14 second video of the rustic sphinx moth
(noisy bird sounds in background)


rustic sphinx moth


Here's a different kind of sphinx moth, the white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata) clinging to the stucco wall below the porch light:

white-lined sphinx moth

I've just mentioned four types of hawkmoths but today I learned that there are about 1400 species of hawkmoths!

14 comments:

Roberta said...

Yikes! Those green caterpillars are gigantic!

cieldequimper said...

This is a fabulous Nature post!

Giga said...

Jeszcze takiej olbrzymiej gąsienicy nie widziałam. Ćmy też są duże. Brawo za film. Pozdrawiam.
Even the giant caterpillar never seen. Moths are also large. Hooray for the film. Yours.

angryparsnip said...


I must admit I like the sculpture quality of the caterpillar
Love they way his little feet are grabbing on to the branch.

cheers, parsnip

ladyfi said...

What lovely shots.

Jo said...

Wow, what an informative post. And your photography is stunning! I'm relieved to see that you don't spray these beautiful creatures. All over Africa, insects, geckos and other little buzzers are sprayed with poison - mainly by South Africans! Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Jo

Julie said...

What a neat caterpillar...all of them! Loved your video. It seems to have such a massive body! Very beautiful!!! Thanks for showing! Nice information too!
xoxo- Julie

rainfield61 said...

"Just do it! you, birds"

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful series of nature photos. Love the birds and the caterpillars. Happy weekend to you!

betchai said...

very lively pictures, love the pictures of hummingbird and hongworm and goldfinch and hongworm, they indeed look curious

Magia da Inês said...

✿✿彡

Bela transformação!
Bom domingo, ótima semana!
Beijinhos do Brasil.
¸.•°♡♡♫° ·.

Thérèse said...

What a series! Larvas look nicer to me than moths but let's not forget they feed on leaves...

DeniseinVA said...

I'm glad you had the comparison of size between the caterpillar and the birds. I didn't realize they were that big. Great series of shots, loved this post!

Darla said...

I think I've seen more moths in Tucson than I ever saw in Maine...they're really lovely with that "warm fuzzy" sort of energy about them, eh? :-) Sorry to be a stranger...UA classes are keeping me too busy to check on my favorite blogs! LOL