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CLOSED: Another "critter caper" - Elementary, dear Watson?

Saint Petersburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Saw a big leaf CHOMPED off my Datura metel and immediately knew the game was afoot!

Checked around until I saw another partially chomped leaf and knew the scoundrel's secret lair must be in the vicinity. Sure enough! Just before I squashed him with a stick (how DARE he chomp on my Datura!), I found myself fascinated not only by his size (ewww!), but by his sheer determination to hold onto the spine of the leaf he'd already half-chomped. (little bugger's got some serious "hooks" for feet with which to grip his feast!)

Curiosity soon got the better of me and I found myself mesmerized by him for the next few minutes. After I took a few photographs of him for evidence, I decided to grant the criminal a stay of execution. I've temporarily confined him in a holding cell (plastic water bottle) with a few punched-in air holes, a couple of sticks, and the remainder of the Datura leaf he was oh-so-boldly chomping on when I uncovered his dirty scheme.

So, Watson, what manner of criminal critter is this? After his metamorphosis will he be a glorious winged phoenix rising from the mulch? Or is he a pale moth in butterfly's clothing, waiting to take wing one dark and dreary night? But more importantly, is he worthy of a reprieve? Or shall I introduce him to the bottom of my shoe?

Quickly, Watson! Time is fleeting!

(Thanks).

Thumbnail by spaceman_spiff
Saint Petersburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Another shot of the criminal.

Thumbnail by spaceman_spiff
Saint Petersburg, FL(Zone 9b)

A third and final shot.

(The "spine" sticking up is actually on the "rear" of the critter).

Thanks again.
John

Thumbnail by spaceman_spiff
Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Hornworm; sphinx moth.
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/626352/

Chardon, OH(Zone 5a)

It's actually a very nice moth, even if it did make the mistake of choosing your beloved Datura for its meal. From the size if it, it looks about to pupate so you wouldn't lose too many more leaves.

Erie, MI(Zone 6a)

Hi,

Well, I don't find the moth to be particularly objectionable... in fact, I think it looks pretty nice. And generally, they don't eat a whole lot, and there are usually only one or two. Here is a link to what it probably looks like (or very similar):

http://www.floridagardener.com/critters/Insect_Pests/hornworm_tomato_adult.jpg

There are lots of Sphinx moths, with varying colors - some are a lot more spectacular looking than others - but I suspect it is probably this one.

In general, the size of the moths is what is most impressive about them. Aside from silkmoths, Sphinx moths are the next biggest moths you're going to find. They usually have a wingspan of at least 2 -3 inches, sometimes even more.

Plus, your flower is probably what invited the moths in! :) They drink from the flowers at night very much like a hummingbird does.

Hope that helps!
God bless,
Jeff

This message was edited Jul 17, 2006 11:13 PM

This message was edited Jul 17, 2006 11:14 PM

Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)

I agree with DawnG ... once the hornworm is mature it's done most of its damage - may as well leave it. If I catch them when they're small I squash them though (they can do major damage to tomatoes, peppers, daturas, and brugmansias). They do turn into cool sphinx moths (see my pic)

Thumbnail by TomH3787
Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

This must be the season for those critters. I had one show up on my Datura last week. Two actually. I hesitated getting rid of them, because I knew they would turn into something pretty, but...HALF my plant is gone!!! My hubby said he'd get rid of them for me, because he knew I couldn't do it. When he went out to pluck them off..one was gone already. They sure did get mighty big. The biggest one was at least 4 inches long!! Was sort of neat looking, though.

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Here's my "criminal" LOL

I was told he was a Hawk Moth cat, though. Is that the same thing as a Sphinx?

Thumbnail by PiggyPoo
Erie, MI(Zone 6a)

Hi Piggy,

Yeah... Sphinx is the same as Hawkmoth...

Criminals, indeed... but, in their defense, the tubular flowers invite the moths... they take a drink, and then say, hmmm, this looks good to lay eggs on! So, it's entrapment! ;-)

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

So, is there a "season" for them, because I hadn't had a problem until last week. And on another forum, someone else posted a picture of one that had devoured a Dat, as well. Just seems like the "sightings" are happening all at once here LOL

Erie, MI(Zone 6a)

:)

Well, the season is generally mid-summer... or, about now. :) The moths are out a lot earlier (usually May, or June, here), and the larvae are on your plants then, too... but they're so tiny that they don't eat enough to make you notice them. But, once they're large like the one you had, they are big enough to make a noticeable dent in foliage... so, when they're about to pupate, it seems like they appeared out of no where!

Saint Petersburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks, everyone, for identifying this beast!

For the record, he finished eating the large Datura leaf I tore up and stuffed in his bottle. Man, they leave behind some (relatively) HUGE droppings/feces as well! The size & number of the droppings in the bottom of the bottle seem almost impossible to have all come from this one critter! But, I guess if all you do all day is eat and eat and eat...then what goes in must come out...!

I'll wait and see if he's stored up enough nourishment to make his cocoon or chrysalis or whatever. But he's not getting any more Datura!! LOL

Thanks again, everyone.
Case closed.
John

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Oh my gosh...I saw what I thought was "droppings" all over my porch, and thought NO WAY!! But I guess that's what it was LOL

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Okay, if you want to be cool among bug folks and small kids, caterpillar poop is called "frass." Dontcha love that? Sounds like street talk.

Erie, MI(Zone 6a)

Lol...

Hi spaceman... yeah, it is pretty huge. I just wanted to let you know that Sphinx moths pupate underground... so, it will probably just shed into a pupa in whatever container you have it in... but it may not make it without the dirt. Sphinx moths usually aren't as picky as some other moths that use dirt to pupate. Citheronia regalis moths ("Royal Walnut," or "Hickory Horned Devil" moths) will usually get messed up when pupating, if dirt isn't provided for them to dig in to.

Just wanted to let you know that,
God bless,
Jeff

Saint Petersburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks, Jeff!
That's definitely good to know.
Take care,
John

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