This very large and hideously beautiful caterpillar was found lurking in one of my flowerbeds over the weekend. I initially thought it was a hornworm, which are are known to strike fear into the hearts of gardeners everywhere as they are quite fond of things like tomato, potato, eggplant, and pepper plants.

tobacco hornworm

tobacco hornworm

However, after a bit of further research, I’ve determined that this beauty is the larva of the modest sphinx moth, perhaps even the offspring of the very modest sphinx moth I discovered hanging out on my back patio in mid-July this year!

modest sphinx moth

Modest sphinx moth caterpillars feed on aspen, poplar, cottonwood, and willow leaves and are not considered to be pests. (Adult modest sphinx moths, on the other hand, don’t eat at all, EVER. They don’t even have mouth parts)! My yard must be a modest sphinx moth larva haven because I have lots of aspen trees and a very large cottonwood tree. I’m actually kind of surprised that this was the first such caterpillar that I’ve seen.

I spent quite a while observing and photographing the big green caterpillar. (It was quite a joy to watch it move, actually). After I was done with the portrait session, the caterpillar was gently placed into the “back forty” of my yard, where it was free to find a nice patch of dirt in which to dig a shallow burrow and pupate for the next 9 months.

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