Change, Change, Change
For the fourteen years I’ve been in Mexico, a bright green caterpillar (actually, the larval stage of the hornworm at this stage) has invaded my Virginia Creeper vines. It wouldn’t be much of a problem except for the fact that they poop lots of black pellets about 1/2 inch in diameter directly onto my glass tabletop and all over the terrace floor. I can never see them against the green of the foliage, so three or four times a year, Pasiano is recruited to use his keen eye to discover them and relocate them to my houseless extra lot next door.
I think his/her little green tail looks like one of those little brushes that is used in place of floss or a toothpick to clean between teeth.
If we don’t catch them during the green stage, they begin to morph into a creatures you wouldn’t believe were stages of the same being.
This shot shows their size in relation to each other. The larger one is four or five inches long. Their heads look like the rolled part of an uninflated balloon and are translucent and polka dotted. The racing stripes add an extra flair in the littler guy whereas the larger one looks more sedate in his brown and white striped pale gray suit. Two different caterpillars or stages of the same creature? And, are they later stages of the green larva? If so, why is the one guy smaller? Questions, questions.
This is the next stage of worm that we found. By now, I have discovered that it is a Hornless Hornworm (Acemon Sphinx) and that they lose the little horn on their rear end (you can see the detail on the first green stage above) after their first molt and it is replaced on each of the subsequent larval stages with an eyespot that you can clearly see in the picture below.
That one eyespot on the tail end seemed spookier when I thought it was a cyclops eye on the head of the hornworm!
There is a rather long and unbelievable story that goes with this stage of the caterpillar that I will tell at a later time. In fact, this is the one hornworm that became my “mascota” (pet.)
The most interesting part of this story is what this caterpillar turns into. So far as I know, I’ve never seen the insect stage–perhaps because I am too insistent that Pasiano removes all the larva to relocate them. I have just this year discovered that they actually turn into hummingbird moths that are avid pollinators of many of the flowers I grow. They are also beautiful–often being mistaken for hummingbirds. I don’t think it is fair for me to download a picture of the moth, since all of the photos above were taken by me and if I had been more aware of anything other than my Virginia creeper, I would have known that it might be worth putting up with the worm poop to be able to see the hummingbird moth.
So hereafter, I vow that I will not relocate any more hornworm larva or caterpillars at any stage. And it may take another year, but I promise to take a picture of the first hummingbird moth that I see.