Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vashti Sphinx Moth

Vashti Sphinx moth (c) John Ashley
Vashti Sphinx moth

Vashti Sphinx moth (c) John AshleyI've been enjoying a new arrival to my UV light trap the past couple of nights. Just one at first, and then half a dozen last night/this morning. The large and friendly Vashti Sphinx (Sphinx vashti) makes an immediate impression compared to all of the other smaller moths.

This is a fairly common moth across Montana, from what records I can find, but I've never seen one before this week. They'd be hard to miss if you're actually looking. An adult's tuxedo-like body measures out at a robust 1.75 inches. There are many forms of moth antennas, and I think these antero-posteriorly flattened pheromone sniffers might be considered a version of "fusiform." Or, maybe not.

Vashti Sphinx caterpillars are also quite large, green with seven white stripes along each side, sporting an impressive, black caudal horn. There's only one generation ("flight") of adults each year, so I've invited a few of them inside to live with us (in a terrarium), hoping one of them will lay eggs. For some reason, my plan fails to fire up my wife's maternal instincts.

Vashti Sphinx moth antennae (c) John Ashley
Vashti Sphinx moth antennae