Monday, August 19, 2013

Manduca Moth

I think this guy is a Manduca sexta (Carolina Sphinx). We found it at work, resting on a wall. I put it in the frig for a short bit so that I could get some pictures to help with identification. Carolina Sphinx is also known as the Tobacco Hornworm when it is a caterpillar. Despite the name "Tobacco Hornworm", this caterpillar is one of the hornworms frequently found on tomatoes. Tomato Hornworms are closely related and look very similar.

Manduca sexta = Carolina Sphinx Moth = Tobacco Hornworm
Manduca quinquemaculatus = Five Spotted Hawkmoth = Tomato Hornworm
Wikipedia had a mnemonic for separating the caterpillars; Tobacco Hornworms have straight lines (7) like cigarettes, while Tomato Hormworms have 8 "V's" like Vine rippened tomatoes. The specific epithets also help keep them straight; the M. sexta moth has six spots on its abdomen, while the M. quinquemaculatus has five.

The idea of being a victim of a parasitoid makes these caterpillars morbidly fascinating. It seems like more often than not, these caterpillars have wasp eggs on their back that will hatch and eat the caterpillar from the inside-out while it is living. It was nice to see one of the moths that survived up-close.


Paul said...

Let's see some snakes ben!

Adlib said...

Just found the hornworm of this moth in my driveway just now. They look really cool. I have no veggies for them to eat so I'm cool with him being here. :)