Tuesday, September 24, 2013

White-lined sphinx moth chrysalis

My very hungry caterpillar finally went underground to do his metamorphosis! It's been kind of a long story, though. Last week Tuesday, at about 3 inches long, he stopped eating, and he seemed very restless, crawling all around in the jar, apparently looking for the best place to do his thing.

He was so active, in fact, that he caught Josie's attention while Courtney and I were in the basement, and she tipped the jar off the windowsill into the kitchen sink. We heard a 'clunk' upstairs, and then a 'thump' of Josie jumping down from somewhere up high. When we went up to investigate, the jar was on its side in the sink. BAD Josie!! But it appeared that no harm was done, and we put the jar into a closed room for safekeeping when we left the kitchen again.

By evening, I'd seen the caterpillar pushing dirt back and forth with his upper body, as his way of digging. But he was never satisfied, and by the time we went to bed, he was still on top of the dirt. Wednesday morning, however, he was gone. Looking very closely, I could see just a bit of his green, but by the time I got outside into better light with the camera, he had completely disappeared.

I removed all the purslane, and in doing so, I also pulled out what had gotten covered with dirt when the jar fell into the sink (I sure didn't want to start a crop of that weed growing in the jar!). Apparently when I did that, though, it disturbed the caterpillar or messed up his little "cavern", and later in the day I was very surprised to see him back on top of the dirt crawling around again... uh oh!

So the poor thing had to start all over again. Until I saw a YouTube video of one digging in some desert sand, I hadn't realized that they need a cave-like hole with some room to move around a bit. It's a lot of work for a worm to dig a hole like that! This little guy worked at it for a couple of days this time. It seemed every time he'd push some dirt aside, more would fall back into his hole. Maybe by then it was too dry or something. I did spritz a little water in there, hoping it would help. His first hole may have been helped by the purslane under some of the dirt, holding it up. Too bad I messed it up for him.

He finally got the job done... or good enough, anyway. By Friday morning, he was settled into a hole in the dirt and had sort of changed shape, although he was still green. The hole was still open at the top, but I guess he'd given up on completely covering himself... or maybe his time was just up and he had to quit. It was convenient for me, though, because I could see what was going on.

See below how he's sort of squished together, kind of like someone squeezed an accordian? I think he went from 3 inches long to less than 2 inches.

I didn't know how long it would take for him to change into a chrysalis. I thought it'd probably be about a day, like it takes for monarch caterpillars. So I waited, checking often during the day.

And I waited! One day... two days... I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong, but if I disturbed him a bit, he wiggled, so I assumed all was still well.

Finally yesterday morning, after 3 days, I checked once again, and I found this!

He'd finally done it overnight!

By last evening, the chrysalis had turned more of a brown color, which is normal.

Now we wait. I've read that it can take 10-14 days for him to come out as a moth... or being this late in the season, he might stay in there all winter. Time will tell, I guess. I'll let you know if/when anything happens!


annie dee said...

Fascinating. Busy little guy.

Grandma G said...

I agree... fascinating! And I've learned a lot of things along the way.

Anonymous said...

I Have never seen one before


Grandma G said...

I hadn't, either, Dale... a whole new and fun experience for me.

david gonzales said...

I may have posted twice. sry. My daughter and I just found a white-lined sphinx caterpillar and we are going to try to see if it will turn into a moth. My question, what type of dirt did you use? did you use potting soil? Does it have to have a certain moisture content? Any tips on how to help this little guy out would greatly be appreciated. ty David M. Gonzales. :)

Grandma G said...

Hi David... I just used soil from the garden where I found him, as it was nice and loose. I have spritzed water on the soil a few times, just to keep it slightly damp, but I don't really know if that's necessary. My idea was to keep it as close as possible to how it would've been outdoors.

Mine has been in its chrysalis for 2½ weeks now, which seems longer than it should be if it were going to hatch yet this fall. I hope it doesn't wait all winter, because I might forget about it by spring! I know it's still alive, because it sort of changes position daily. Sometimes I can see the wings, and sometimes I can't. I'm still hoping it'll hatch this fall yet, but it'd better do it soon before it gets too cold to let it go outside.

Good luck with yours!

Grandma G said...

David... in case you check back here or have subscribed to this comment thread, I thought I'd let you know that my chrysalis hatched! See the post here.

How is yours doing?