biologist. I became interested in moths and butterflies after
working in the butterfly garden at MOSI for four years. I learned
about the different types of plants to attract butterflies and host
plants for caterpillars. I worked in the nursery raising the
caterpillars. We would take cuttings of the host plant and stick
them through the holes of the lid of a yogurt cup filled with
water. Then we'd put the caterpillars on top and set them in a
ten gallon tank. When they would pupate we'd put them in separate
clear boxes so the public could watch the change. We'd then release the
butterflies into the display once they had emerged.
Pentas were one of the nectar plants we had outside and one day I found
a huge green caterpillar on one. I knew it was a moth of some type
but wasn't sure what. Since we didn't raise moths I took it home
in a box to raise myself. I fed him out on Penta leaves and when
he became an adult I learned he was a beautiful Tersa Sphinx. I'd
read about these moths but never seen one. The Sphinx and Hawk
Moths look like hummingbirds. I love hummingbirds as well but had
never been able to attract any to my yard. I figured attracting
the moths might be easier and I became interested in them. These
moths are now my favorites.
The species I'm holding in my hand is a Carolina Sphinx. One funny thing that happens when they feed from the feeder is that they drink and drink for a very long time. They don't get this much nectar from flowers. They fill up so much that they fly around drunkenly and have to land to sleep for the night. It's at this stage that they can be picked up. It's funny to watch them struggle to stay on the feeder then slowly hover to a branch to rest.
The picture of the one with the long proboscis (tongue or feeding tube) is a Pink Spotted Sphinx. These are the shiest and hardest to coax onto the feeders. So I really enjoy feeding the adults and raising the caterpillars.
When I started gardening in 2004 I got a big caterpillar on my tomato
plants. I knew right away it was a hornworm of some sort.
I've always read that these are bad pests but I knew that from what I'd
learned about raising caterpillars they didn't have to be pests for
me. I knew something beautiful would come from that big green
caterpillar. Although I find the caterpillars to be big soft and
cute. So I took him inside and set up a tank for
him. Whenever I found one I'd take it in and take clippings from
the leaves of the tomatoes, not the branches that produced
fruits. I always had plenty to go around for the caterpillars and
still got my tomatoes at harvest time. Once the moths emerged I'd
let them go at dusk in the backyard.
After moving into my first house I was thrilled to find that the
previous owner planted with hummingbirds in mind. Not only did I
finally have my beloved hummingbirds but he'd left the plants
called Four 'O Clocks. These open in the evening, have a
wonderful fragrance and stay open all night. Perfect for the
that are attracted by scent more than by sight. I had a
hummingbird feeder and thought that if I put the Four O'clock flowers
in the feeding ports I could get the moths to feed from my hand.
After much coaxing I finally got one to come on. It takes
patience but it
can be done and is a lot of fun to do. All the species that I
have identified in my backyard here in Florida are:
Carolina Sphinx, Banded Sphinx, Guady Sphinx, Tersa Sphinx, Rustic Sphinx, and Pink Spotted Sphinx
So now I have moths that look like hummingbirds
and also real hummingbirds.
I'm quite happy.