Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hummingbird Moth and Larvae by Irene Shonle

The other day, as I was wandering around my garden, I noticed a very large and beautiful hornworm on my fireweed.
Larvae of the hummingbird moth, Hyles lineata

Even though the reaction of many gardeners is to immediately squash hornworms (tomato hornworms give all the rest of them such a bad reputation), I was pretty sure that this would turn out to be something  interesting.  So, I did a little research, and found that, indeed, this hornworm will ultimately become the much-beloved hummingbird moth (aka the white-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata).    I was thrilled -- I had never seen the larvae on the property before, although I had frequently enjoyed watching the moths taking over the night pollination shift from the hummingbirds.  (Note:  tomato hornworms also turn into hummingbird moths of a different species, Manduca quinquemaculata, but they typically do much more damage as caterpillars).

Here is a picture of the adult white-lined Sphinx moth, courtesy of CSU's Whitney Cranshaw, via Bugwood:

Adult hummingbird moth (Hyles lineata) by Whitney Cranshaw

For more information on hornworms and hummingbird moths: