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Pandorus Sphinx Larvae About To Pupate

9-4-15 pandorus sphinx 033The family Sphingidae consists of sphinx (also called hawk) moths. In their larval stage, these moths are often referred to as hornworms, because of the horn, eyespot or hardened button they all possess at the far end of their bodies. (Many gardeners are familiar with the Tobacco Hornworm (Carolina Sphinx Moth), a voracious consumer of tomato plants.)

Before overwintering as pupae, hornworm larvae feed continuously. The pictured Pandorus Sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus) feeds on both grape and Virginia creeper foliage. This particular hornworm comes in four colors – green, orange, pink or cinnamon and can grow to a length of 3 ½ inches before pupating. Each of the white spots surrounds a spiracle, or tiny hole through which air enters the hornworm’s body. A horn is present up until the last instar, or stage, of the larva’s life, at which point it is replaced by a button (see insert) that resembles an eye. The larva will soon burrow into the soil, spend the winter as a pupa, and emerge as an adult moth in the spring.(Thanks to Sadie Richards Brown for finding and caretaking this caterpillar until I could photograph it.)

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2 responses

  1. (Yet another) absolutely beautiful photo! What a striking critter, when viewed so closely.
    Here’s what I’m wondering: what happens to the air once it enters the spiracle? Is it carried around through some sort of a circulatory system?

    September 4, 2015 at 10:13 pm

  2. Thank you for the compliment, dellwvt. It’s pretty neat – an insect can open and close the spiracles with its muscles (this ability controls the loss of moisture). When open, the spiracles allow air to enter the insect’s body, where it reaches the insect’s tissues via tubes called tracheal tubes.

    September 5, 2015 at 6:56 am

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