Hawk-moth saldo 2016

In summer 2016 my goal was to spot some caterpillars of Hawk-moth species that I haven’t come across recently. Here’s a wrap-up of all species I managed to find, including the the hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) from which I received caterpillars from a friend.

There’s a lot of challenge left for next year. Nevertheless, it was nice to finally find caterpillars of the Privet Hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri). Another nice surprise was to spot a caterpillar of the Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus). All in all, it has been 7 Hawk-moth species in summer 2016. And bottom line, it’s always a great moment when coming across caterpillars of hawk-moth.

Flower feast

The caterpillars of some hawk-moth species mainly feed during night. When the sun sets in the evening, they start climbing up their food plants and start their feast. Like many other caterpillars they particularly like feeding on the flowers of their host plants.

Willowherb is the food plant of the Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) and the Bedstraw hawk-moth (Hyles gallii). I’ve mainly spotted the large hornworms of the latter so far. The full-grown caterpillars of the Elephant hawk-moth will follow a bit later.

Beautiful caterpillars: The Bedstraw Hawk-moth

Hawk-moth caterpillars are always impressive. Some species, however, are well disguised and only rarely spotted. Others don’t do too well hiding themselves. Caterpillars of Hawk-moths, the so called Hornworms, primarily feed during night. During daylight, they stay hidden in the growth.

The Bedstraw Hawk-moth (Hyles gallii) is a common species in Finland. Late summer the caterpillars can be found pretty easily on Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Normally, single eggs are laid on the food plants. But there’s occasions where caterpillars can appear in small groups. In 2015, I sighted a spot where about 15-20 caterpillars were feeding on a very small area of only a couple square meters.

Caterpillars of this moths can have variations in color and pattern. Sometimes it feels that every larva has its unique dress.

Sienna’s first caterpillar

Way before I officially decided to reinvent a childhood hobby, I could not keep myself from taking a close look at a beautiful caterpillar if one came across.

Late summer 2012, our daughter Sienna turned 1 a couple weeks ago, it was time of the large and fascinating hawk moth caterpillars to leave their food plant for digging themselves into the ground, build a cocoon and spend the winter as pupa.

This is the time of the year when common people may spot these beautiful, weird looking creatures as they might pass streets before finding suitable ground for digging.

We often walked along the river which floated close where we used to live back then. The river bed was the perfect biotope for all kind of insects, respectively for spotting them. If was rather usual to see caterpillars along the trails. However, this particular one of the Spurge Hawk-moth (Hyles euphorbiae) was right in the middle of the path. I decided to carry it to softer and safer ground, but not before taking a close look at it. This time, I also introduced the first caterpillar to my daughter.

Having no idea at that time that I’d one day start rearing caterpillars in form of a beloved hobby, it is pretty safe to say today that Sienna will see many more, and even bigger and more colorful species than the one that day.

Give it a try…

Caterpillars of hawk moths, also known as hornworms, are particularly suitable for kids. Due to their size and build it’s fun to raise them. They’re also more robust than other caterpillars.

Source: The Butterfly Playbook

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