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Nov 03 2006

Bug de la semaine

walnut sphinx larva, late October
Walnut sphinx caterpillar, October 30, 2006, Austin TX. Photo by Twisty

This deafening clamor for photographs of walnut sphinx larvae must cease! There, I throw you a bone, you frothing lepidopterophiliac mob! Behold A. juglandis en route to pupaville. I found this charismatic diplomat from the hawk moth clan on the front step of the Sphingidae Department of the Twisty Institute for Urban Varmint Research a couple of days ago. You will perceive straight away that it has gone from the bright and kicky spring green of its carefree youth to the more autumnal tones that portend its tragic descent into adulthood. Our walnut sphinx will spin not a cocoon, nor yet a chrysalis, favoring instead a subterranean hideaway for its hibernal pupational morphages. When it flaps its way out of its leaf litter next year, it will look like this. The tragic thing about the walnut sphinx moth is that it doesn’t eat as an adult. Not a crumb.

Fun mothal fact: ‘moth’ is not a classification recognized by taxonomists, since they (the moths) are not all descended from a common ancestor, and merely comprise all lepidoptera (butterfly-lookin’ bugs) that are not specifically butterflies. Trot out that little tidbit at your next cocktail party and watch the jaws drop!

[Thanks to Bill Oehlke, that generous and crazed Canadian moth enthusiast, for confirming my positive ID]

19 comments

  1. Sandy D.

    After reading through many of your old varmint posts, I was thrilled to see a new one this morning. More varmints!

  2. amy_b

    Indeed, more varmint postings. Nice pic!

  3. Sara

    Yes, that is an excellent bug, and an excellent dollop of trivia. Thank you!

    And yet, the clamor does not cease. I’m with Sandy D. More varmints! More varmints! (bangs plastic coffee cup on desk enthusiastically)

    Of course, this does not mean I wish you’d just shut up on the radical feminism stuff. I know you can do both. I know you have facets.

  4. TP

    Nothing warms the embittered radical feminist heart more efficiently than a well-shot snap of an urban varmint. Such things also reassure me that the Faster body and soul are in good shape.

  5. B. Dagger Lee

    I don’t want to be boastful, but I saw a Luna moth once.

  6. Nik

    Both the walnut sphinx caterpillar and its incarnation as a moth are beautiful to behold. If only I didn’t have a pathological revulsion to moths. Like the curious, but apparently idiotic, woman that I am I clicked on the link to see what the delightful larva would grow into. While my brain said “Oooh neat!” my gut decided to crawl up under my ribcage and my face whipped away from the screen fighting a gag reflex. This mixed reaction caused uproarious laughter in my office.

    If only I could react so quickly to truly vomitous images, like Paris Hilton and porn and Victoria’s Secrets ads and most everything on tv.

  7. Atzbanite

    Very nice bugtography. My 10 year old rabid bug collecting pre-feminist daughter highly approves. I’m waiting until she’s a little older to read her the rest of the posts, she might up her torture of her little ‘bratz’ lovin’ sister even more. (We try to be tolerant of all types in our house, to a point.)

  8. Sylvanite

    I’m jealous. We never get urban varmints that spectacular around here. Here it’s all pigeons and house sparrows and Eagles fans.

  9. KTal

    “When it flaps its way out of its leaf litter next year..”

    That explains the purpose of the tightly wrapped leaf package inserted in the empty crevice of a large bored hole in a 6 x 6 post from a deck that we took down yesterday. I told my less educated working partner that it most certainly was once the home of some form of lepidoptera. I had to put an end to his wonderment of the human purpose behind wrapping leaves in a tight whorl and sticking them 7 feet up in some dark hole.

    Your timing is impeccable Twisty. Visits here not only confirm my blamin’ ways, but also the correctedness of my assumptions about the rest of the universe, very good, very good indeed.

  10. ksbugwoman

    That is an excellent bug, and I know bugs. We raised a Polyphemus caterpillar last year, who spun a nice cocoon inside a rolled-up leaf. After wintering outside, he came out as a huge, spectacular moth. We took pity on him and released him into the wild, since we knew he could smell every female moth within flying distance.

    http://www.whatsthiscaterpillar.co.uk/caterpillars/polyphemus_moth.html

  11. Betsy

    AAAAA!! {{{{>_

  12. deciduousfruit

    forsooth! not even TACOS? Here I am shivering up in OR with nary a taco in sight and this little bug, er, bugger? has the gall to spend its entire adult life NOT indulging in the bountiful texmex?

  13. Twisty

    Don’t feel too bad, deciduous. The walnut sphinx spends much of its life as a ravenous worm, constantly feasting worm.

  14. annared

    Back in the Crimean, when I was a student nurse on night shift sat Florence Nightingale like round a [electric] lamp; we used to be under constant attacks from the hugest beastie moths one can imagine. Some students ran for the City Hospitals never to return – I remained and became a fine countrified nurse.

  15. Ron Sullivan

    Ooo, da pretty cattlepillow!

  16. octopod

    Ohhhh. What a pretty creature.

    You know, the other day I saw a Jerusalem cricket on the grass strip by the sidewalk, right here in Pasadena. Totally awesome and unexpected. It was fat and shiny and pretty, too.

  17. I Heart Twisty

    Just testing the emergency blogular access sign-in.
    Ignore this post.

    SoozeZ

  18. Pretty Lady

    You take the varmints, I’ll take the epiphytes. Well done, sister.

  19. ae

    I love the Varmint Center. Great eye, Twisty! You find some awesome fauna.

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