Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pandora Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Sometimes when you are out walking in the park you get lucky and find a nice surprise to photograph. That was what happened one summer day when I found this pandora sphinx moth caterpillar in the Minnesota Valley NWR. The pandora sphinx moth is a large moth that is native to the eastern half of the United States. Here in Minnesota we are on the western and northern edge of the range so they are all that common.Since the moths are usually not active until dusk you are much more likely to find them in their larval form. Eggs are laid singly on the leaves of the host plant, which includes grape vine and Virginia creeper. The eggs usually take about a week to incubate and the young caterpillar then begins to eat. They can be either red, like this one, or green in color.

As they grow the pandora sphinx moth caterpillar will shed its out grown outer skin. They have 5 different stages of growth, called instars, as a caterpillar. I believe that this caterpillar was in one of the later instar because the anal horn, that they usually have in their early stages was not visible. Soon this caterpillar will makes its way down to the ground where it will dig itself an underground chamber where it will pupate. When I got close to the caterpillar to get a close macro it demonstrated its defense mechanism and withdrew its head and first two thorax segments into the enlarged third section of the thorax, sort of like a turtle hiding in its shell, so I took a couple of shots and then left it to its business.

17 comments:

Adrienne in Ohio said...

So Cool!

John S. Mead said...

Beautiful detail! Thanks for sharing!

Liz said...

this is great such detailed beauty.

Karen said...

It's a paterkillar (my granddaughter's words), and oh what a gorgeous one it is! These are just amazing photos, and I always learn so much from your posts.

KaHolly said...

A pretty name for a beautiful caterpillar! And it makes just as beautiful a moth, kind of reminds me of (very pretty) camouflage. ~karen

Annelie said...

What great pictures!

Maaike said...

great details
nice shot

Jama said...

Nice macro!

Fotobloggen 2011 said...

Great Macros and as always interesting facts! The last one looks a bit as if it's losts it's head....

Bom said...

Cool macro and an interesting post. Our local moth caterpillars don't look like that, unfortunately.

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Cool closeup of the caterpillar.

LauraX said...

the world is so much more expansive when we take the time to discover the tiniest of creatures!

Susan said...

Beautiful! Informative post, too. I always enjoy what you post.

Caroline Gill said...

Amazing post - what a creature!

Dutchbaby said...

You got a real beaut here. Thanks for the background information too!

Antique Slot Machines said...

I sympathise with you.

Renate said...

This is great. I found one of these the other day, and took it into my claasroom so my third graders could watch it transform. According to this information, this creature needs TJ burrow into the soil to complete its metamorphosis. I wonder if it would be able to donut it I put a mound of dirt in its enclosure in my classroom?