Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tersa Sphinx (Xylophanes tersa)

Adult Tersa Sphinx moths have a pointed abdomen (though this one is a little bent) and contrasting black markings on hindwings.

Tersa Sphinx (Xylophanes tersa)

One of my favorite moths because they look so streamlined and sleek.

Range:  Massachusetts south to south Florida; west to Nebraska, New Mexico, and southern Arizona; south through Mexico, the West Indies, and Central America to Argentina. 

Food:  Adults take nectar from deep-throated  flowers.  They begin feeding around sunset.  I often see them feeding in our Datura right after the blooms have opened in the evening.

Caterpillar host plants include smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra), starclusters (Pentas species), Borreria, Catalpa, and Manettia species.

Tersa Sphinx caterpillars occur in both green and brown forms.  This is a fairly early instar and only about 3/4" long.

.Tersa Sphinx caterpillars have one large eyespot  and six smaller eyespots in a line down their sides.  In earlier instars, smaller eyespots are barely visible and striping more pronounced.




KaHolly said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I'm rather fond of the sphinx moths!!! ~karen

Birdy Official said...

Interesting information and post. Do you have any idea about the pupal stage duration? I'm asking because a pupa is under my observation from some days. One thing I observed in tersa sphinx caterpillar is that they are green in color, but a day or two before pupation they turn brown.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is that time of year when these things start turning up. What a handsome bug. It looks like velvet. The caterpillar is charming too. It looks quite dashing with that big horn.

Unknown said...

What a gorgeous little critter!
I miss seeing Beauties like this.
You stumble over critters rather seldom over here :D

Marvin said...

Thanks to everyone for the comments.

Birdy: This series of photos on BugGuide says the pupal stage lasted for 15 days. It also seems to indicate the caterpillar pupated directly from a green form. I was not aware that brown and green forms are indicative of nearness to pupation, but that could be the case. I have no personal experience in this matter. I released a brown form caterpillar this afternoon because it was neither eating what I offered nor pupating. I didn't want to be responsible for starving the caterpillar.

Birdy Official said...

Thanks Marvin for your answer.

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow...what a cool moth! Like the stealth bomber of moths. Very neat!

Shelly Cox said...

Very pretty moth, I've never seen the adult before. I did photograph a caterpillar in Florida a couple of years ago. It was the brown form you mentioned. They are lovely in both stages of life.

Anonymous said...

beautiful sphinx and caterpillar - thanks for sharing!

Wayne said...

Love your picture and love the Tersa Sphinx. Just found one in my backyard last week. Sadly, it had died (of natural causes I assume as there was little or no damage), but I added it to our collection of beautiful creatures.

For reference, I live in Clearwater, Florida, so it is true that they live this far south, at least.


ghostwriter said...

I live in Tampa, FL. Last weekend, my six-year-old son spotted a green caterpillar on the driveway. We looked it up online and determined that it was the Tersa Sphinx caterpillar. I told him he could put it in a container and watch it for a day or two, and then he had to release it. Interestingly, it pupated very quickly (so quickly, in fact, that I don't really know what the interval stage(s) looked like). It's been in the pupal stage for about five days or so, resting in some soil and leaves in a small aquarium. There's a screen lid on the aquarium, so my son will get a chance to see the moth before we release it. It's been a lot of fun, as well as educational, getting to share this experience with him. Thanks for the info I found on your site!

Marvin said...

Ghostwriter: Hope all goes well with "growing out" the caterpillar. I still find the process fascinating.

Mike B. @ said...

That is a very convincing eyespot! I wonder what the "shadow" spots are for?

Marvin said...

Mike B.: Sorry, but I have no idea about the reason for additional eyespots. The WHY? of nature often eludes me.