This caterpillar is the fifth stage of the Achemon sphinx moth. (Jeff Mitton ??

While watering my rock garden, I inadvertently flushed an Achemon sphinx moth, Eumorpha achemon, which flew less than 20 feet to clutch onto a Stella D’Oro lily, where it stayed for the remainder of the day.

This species is crepuscular and nocturnal, so it is rarely seen during the day but first appears about dusk and is active most of the night. Achemon sphinx moths are the smallest in the genus Eumorpha, but are large in comparison to moths in general. They have a body length of up to 2 inches and wingspans from 3.4 to 3.8 inches.

On the dorsal side, adult moths have soft brown tinged with pink and dark brown triangular patches on the thorax next to the wings. The bright salmon colors of the hindwings flash when the moth flutters.

Five instars or stages of caterpillars change colors dramatically as they molt. The first stage is light yellow, with a very prominent horn, which earns the sphinx caterpillars the common name “hornworms.”

Second-stage caterpillars are either green or brown, while third and fourth stages are green or brown with seven white diagonal stripes on each side. Fifth-stage caterpillars are red or brown or green and lack the horn, but a conspicuous eye spot appears where the horn was attached.

The puparium is about 3 inches long, dark brown and rounded at one end, pointed at the other. It is rare to find a puparium, for they are usually buried in the soil beneath the plants that the caterpillars fed on.

Caterpillars eat the leaves of many species in the family Vitaceae, which contains species of grapes and Virginia creeper. For this reason, vintners do not welcome Achemon sphinx moths to their vineyards.

Sphinx moths have a number of traits usually described with superlatives. They are strong and fast fliers — top speed is …read more

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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