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Walnut sphinx!!!!

Posted by TomatoWorm59 (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 21, 11 at 3:56

I NEVER leave my porchlight on, and so far this summer, haven't even used it, but last night, expecting my own brother in by 2:00 A.M. was quite a different deal. I went out to wait for him, and noticed 3 walnut sphinx [Amorpha juglandis] on my door and outside wall. What a treat! I did not capture or even disturb them, but with all the hickories around, I sure want to find some of their larvae. They are the famous squeaking hornworms, too.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

That is so cool! I don't think I'll ever be a true moth fan. I just can't imagine me hanging out after midnight. If I'm not in bed by 9:30pm I turn into a witch--I mean a pumpkin.

Martha


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

It's always fun to be surprised by unexpected visitors isn't it TW? Lots of species of lep larva from many families squeak and/or make other sounds within our hearing range. Some favorite larval hunts for me was to take new people interested in leps out in the wilds on night hunts by flashlight for any of many species that are far easier to find at night when they come out to feed. Lights off to slowly stalk and pinpoint them by sound, lights on to actually see and collect them. The only downside was bumping into things in the dark you would really rather not, but that added to the suspense. The stories I could tell about some of those hunts... and the things that go bump in the night. LOL

Martha, most species of nocturnal leps fly within specific time ranges during the night between pre dusk and post dawn. Might be a very short period, might be hours depending on the species. But some really nice finds can be made before your bedtime, including many of the "showier" species. Some of the late night fliers might also still be hanging around at dawn if you are an early riser, especially those mating. Light spectrum has a lot to do with what will come to lights. A few will come to porch lights, many more to blacklights, but mecury vapor lights will pull most species in from much farther distances. My "setups" in the wilds always included 2-3 blacklights and a high wattage MV that could pull them in from great distances depending on the lay of the land at the setup, even those species that prefer blacklights. Putting newly emerged females out in approriate screen cages also pulls in visitors and can get the females mated for further rearing.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Congrats!
I've seen the adults here, but never found a cat - I've sure wanted to hear one! :)
Sherry


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Ladobe,
Thanks for the details on the night visitors. I have more money than time, so maybe I could invest in a special light to attract them to my yard and watch through my window while I work. LOL.

Martha


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Thanks for the info on the lights. I talked to my son about setting something up outside to attract the moths at night, but hadn't had time to investigate how to go about it.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

I know all about the lights, but just don't have the money to spend on them.
Docmom, one genus, Hyles is a late afternoon to early evening visitor. They are among the more colorful of sphingids. A favorite host/nectaring plant, is Mirabilis [four o' clock] and it is a mutualistic partner of the H. lineata.
The Hemaris or bumblebee moths are fully diurnal sphingids. They differ from real bumblebees, not only by slightly larger size and color bands, but their feeding. All sphingids HOVER while nectaring, unlike bees which light on the flowers and often just crawl down into and get all messy. Mimicry of real bumblebees, is the Hemaris' protection, so it can be diurnal.

Hornworms of most all species are downright tasty to any insectivorous animal, so their only protection is sheer numbers [Ceratomia catalpae], camouflage [most do this] and lastly mimicry, some of which can range from mundane to almost ridiculous [like the big, scary-eye headed looking tersa]. Mimicry can even be quite garish. Looks very good to us, but those flamboyant, gay colors are read as "danger/warning" to other wildlife. The banded sphinx 5th instar is a well-known example.
The spurge sphinx cat not only sports warning colors, but is a toxic and foul-tasting as any monarch butterfly cat.

Gotta love hawk moths and hornworms!


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Martha,

Blacklights to use off the power at your home (120V 15W) run around $60 now days. Dual voltage AC/DC BL's that you can use on home power or elsewhere off your vehicle (or a portable generator) are around $100. The later is what all mine are to be more versatile, but they were bought w-a-y back when then were a lot less money. You can get by with just a BL. They will not pull in as many species as a MV or from further than the immediate area, but they are safe to touch when on, safe to look directly at, are waterproof and just about instant on/off.

Even just a 250W mercury vapor setup will set you back over $300 now days. My MV's are 600W and 1000W, and I used to get teased about pulling moth's in from the next state with them. I made them into portable case mounted units myself from old building light transformers and sockets I was able to get for the asking (and climbing on the roof to remove them). Had to buy the bulbs, some electrical supplies and the cases I mounte them in, but the freebies paid for a couple of portable generators that I ran them on in the wilds. FWIW a MV covers the BL spectrum of light and well below and above it, so if money is no object and you have an open landscape that will allow pulling thme in from greater distances than a BL, you cmight want an MV instead of BL. MV bulbs shouldn't be touched with bare hands even when cold, and when white hot they will take your hide off in short order to the third degree or worse; they are not safe to look directly at; they do have to have rain shields (a single drop can explode them when they are white hot); they take time to get up to full brightness, and time to cool all the way down before they can be moved or touched, so they are not instant on/off.

To expand on what TW offered... +1 on the Hemaris, fun bugs. Another diurnal family you might look for is Sesiidae. They mimic wasps/hornets. Hyles can fly almost anytime from mid morning to hours after full dark, same as many species of Hemileuciinae do. So all of these and other mostly diurnal fliers would be possible for you without lights.

As much enjoyment as I got in doing the Rhops, sitting around lights with colleagues all night for anything that came in, but especially Macro's and Coleoptera, was just plain pure fun. In many ways like hunters sitting around a campfire spinning yarns of hunting trips past, in serious debate over some lep topic or planning the next trip we'd take together.

In my case gotta love Saturniidae, Arctiidae, Sphingidae, Sesiidae (and Coleoptera).


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

I passed by a pecan tree with a lot of the leaves obviously eaten by caterpillars, and I got SO excited! I had this thread on my mind, I guess, because I thought maybe I'd find a walnut sphinx moth cat. Too bad, there were just hordes of Datanas - yuk!
Sherry


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Thanks, again, for all the information. I'm really tempted to get a Mercury Vapor light, but the safety issues really don't make it reasonable. Also, I don't have any open space. I'm lucky the Monarchs can find my place during the day, since I'm surrounded by tall pines and wooded areas. The black light is probably perfectly adequate. Do you find that you draw in bats, as well? I'd think they'd show up to chase after the moths. My BIL is a vet who belongs to the Organization for Bat Conservation. So, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the flying rodents.

Right now, I need to go clean out Monarch containers. I'm having a banner year for eggs and cats, and it just keeps getting busier. Every time I go out to collect plants to feed the cats I already have, I find more. Just now, I squatted down in the garden, and before I straightened up I had found four more eggs and two more cats. Be careful what you wish for!

Martha


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Just one thing, martha. Bats are NOT rodents. They are in the same family of tiny carnivorous/insectivorous mammals as moles and shrews. Think of bats as flying shrews!


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Thanks for the correction, TW. Even as I typed that sentence I was trying to remember whether they were rodent or not. Oh, well. Just proves I'm human. Thank goodness for that, at least.

Martha


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

I have 2 MV lights on my property. One is just a plug in, the other on a on/off switch. They came from Home Depot for about 35 dollars each. What I had to do was to remove the difuser from around the light. This may take a little work because they are crimped on but it will come off. I bolt it on a building about 8ft. off the ground. It needs to be low enough to get a close look at what has flown in. I don't leave them on all night. They would end up bird feeders and spider attractents. I've seen at least 18 hawkmoth species at mine.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Thank you, Turtledon. Next time I'm in a big city, I will shop a big box. $35 is plausible, but not $100 plus. It money well spent, as I love moths. like you, I never leave on lights all night and here, have no need for the porchlight, except on that one occasion.

When I do start drawing in sphingids, I will also have my screened-in tents set up, repleat with host plants and even nectaring feeders to give them room to fly about, feed and lay some ova, so I can have larvae for not only captive-rearing, but close-up and hands-on observation by visitors to my private nature center.

Do you also keep a log of species drawn in? 18 species is awesome! Keep up the good work.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

That number was off the top of my head, so I just had to go back and check my records and I was wrong, it was 27 species.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

I have raised numerous Walnut Sphinx as Pecan trees are prevalent in my neighborhood, and they particularly love the saplings with more tender foliage. I have yet to hear one "squeak"! Maybe I will do more massage therapy with the next batch. I just left the ones I found this year on the tree. There have been years when you couldn't turn over a single leaf without find a cat!

Right now I have about 20 Manduca sextas to raise. The eggs and cats are all over the big Datura this year - maybe because most tomato plants bit the dust in Oklahoma - bad year for them! Everytime I collect a group of branches to feed the caged cats, I find more eggs and 1st instars on the foliage! Geez!

Larry, in ID'ing some sphinx, I have noticed that some lepidopterists suggest that the male sphinx often have an arched abdomen, which is pretty cool looking, but I had never thought it to be indicative of gender????

Susan


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Don, what ARE the species you have drawn in?


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Hey Susan, good to see you back.

It is up to a point... many Sphingid males do arch their abdomen when at rest. But they don't always do it every single time. So by itself its an iffy way to determin gender when there are other characteristics that are always reliable without relying on one that is not.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Good to be back, Larry, and thank you! I have been caretaking my daughter, my 15 month old granddaughter, and my 9 yo GD during my daughter's illness and subsequent surgical procedures, so I haven't had the time to "butterfly and moth" this summer. Which is kinda good in a way because we have not had the numbers of leps we usually do as a result of the extreme drought in Oklahoma. Had the time been available, I probably would have been whining and lamenting the diminished numbers, lol!

Susan


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Susan, I posted a link to the video with sound of the sqeaking [or rather hissing] walnut sphinx caterpillar for you to watch.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

I thought it would be neat to add the whistling caterpillar to the menu that I take around to schools so I got some from a buddy. So, I'm now raising them for the first time. They are still quite small.

Yesterday, I had just moved a sleeve of lunas to some other walnut branches. My son walked by the walnut and called to me that I had missed one of my whistling caterpillars. I told him that I had moved lunas, not sphinx. He motioned me over. There was a walnut sphinx where the luna sleeve had just been (denuded walnut branches). The cat was probably 10 times bigger than my little sphinxes. It whistled when I picked it up to move it. Pretty amazing.


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RE: Walnut sphinx!!!!

Susan,

Do you know what time of day/night the females do their calling? I know wild males are in my area but have been unable to attract one. I'm wondering whether I have my female out at the correct time of day.

KC


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