Nature

Moths of the Sphingidae Family, The Gaudy Sphinx

Around the world, some of the largest moths belong to the Sphingidae family. Sphingidae moths have long narrow wings and thick bodies that are covered in hairs. The fore-wings are much longer than the hind-wings. The hairy bodies are pointed at the head and back of the body. Because of their size and appearance, these moths are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds — they are sometimes called hummingbird moths. And like hummingbirds, these moths hover over flowers to consume nectar.

Other names you will often hear used for these moths are hawk moths and even sphinx moths; this is because when the larvae feed among the leaves and branches of a host plant they can often be found in a position that looks like a sphinx.

Gaudy Sphinx Moth  (species described by Linnaeus in 1758)   Eumorpha labruscae  (in the subfamily MACROGLOSSINAE)

Eumorpha labruscae is a sphinx moth that can grow to the size of a human hand. This migrating moth is commonly found in Central and South America and the West Indies, and occasionally it occurs into the United States and as far north as Canada, with strays occurring as far north as Maine & Manitoba, flying Sep-Nov. Argentina north through Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies to Florida, Mississippi, South Texas, and Arizona. It is known as the Gaudy Sphinx Moth due to its remarkable markings and the amazing array of colors on its wings. It has a combination of green, blue, red, and yellow coloration on the wings, thus explaining its flamboyant common name.

In the photos above, the colorful open wings  and the larva of a Sphinx Moth    (photos by Helen Kyrk)

Discovered by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 Carolus (Carl) Linneus (May 23, 1707 to January 10, 1778), also remembered as Carl Linnaeus, was a Swedish zoologist and botanist his work led to the creation of modern-day biological nomenclature for classifying organisms. This work has led to Linnaeus’ distinction as the father of taxonomy.

They get little respect, except from the relatively few scientists and naturalists who are passionate about their study and who study moths and their ways. Moths represent a biological storehouse of interesting, dramatic, and unusual behaviors, some with roles as pollinators, and others as food for other animals. All have interesting stories to tell if we will only take the time to stop, look, listen and smell the hidden world of moths and their flowers. Planting moonlight or a fragrance garden is a sure way to enjoy not only these wonderful blossoms, but also their nocturnal pollinators, especially the giant hawk moths.     These nocturnal moths visit night-blooming flowers to feed on nectar. Plants that attract hawk-moths are called sphingophilous; they often have flowers that are unique, with deeply sequestered nectar accessible only to hummingbirds and moths with long proboscises (an elongated, tubular sucking mouth part).

While some moths in this family are beneficial pollinators, their larval stage of caterpillar can be a destructive garden pest. The caterpillars in this family are often called horn-worms because of the horn-shaped protuberance found on their posterior end.

Deborah Wilson  December 2019 #leavenosphinxmothbehind  #museumwonders.com Source: gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu

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