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]