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Moth Metamorphosis

May 25, 2017

24May17poplar4wpOn 3 Sept. 2016, as I was driving along a country lane, I spotted a huge caterpillar lumbering along directly in front of my vehicle, so I stood on the brakes, parked where I had stopped, got out and checked the specimen, and decided it was worth keeping. I brought it home.

First thing I did was identify the caterpillar: a big poplar sphinx. I’m familiar enough with caterpillar behavior to know that this one was wanting to pupate, so I set up a container for a burrowing caterpillar and left it alone to do its thing. It created a circular space in the material I had put in the container and pupated. When it was appropriate, I packaged the pupa up and put it in the fridge for winter storage.

It was still very much alive when I took it out of the fridge at the end of April. I just left it sitting around in its packaging for a couple weeks, but finally created a shallow burrow for it in a flower pot and covered it with a few layers of paper toweling. I put all that in a wire cage, because I did not want a messy moth flying around my house. They are very messy when they’re fresh!

The photo shows the results, an impressive big poplar sphinx moth, a female. Poplar sphinx coloration is mostly earthy, but then there’s the striking crimson underwings. She’s huge. Below her is her discarded pupa skin in a pot of dirt.

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