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My Front Porch visitor

September 16, 2009


I’ve seen tarantulas outside over the years, but the first time I found a dead one on a windowsill in this house I was a bit grossed out. One of the cats had killed it. It took repeated exposure to gain an understanding of how useful, fascinating, and fragile they actually are.

The tobacco hornworm is the same kind of creature. The first meeting with a fat green caterpillar as thick and long as your index finger, devouring your tomatoes with gusto, is off-putting. And they make a huge splat when squashed. But if you can get past this avoricious adolescent stage, the moth is a valuable pollinator. I usually take the worm across the road to the woods and leave them there, hoping they’ll find something in the large solanacea (nightshade) family to their taste. But since I found this one on a plant that has no commercial value to me, and is in fact one I was going to pull, I decided to watch the progress.

This is what it looked like the first day I found it, Sept. 7, 2009, devouring a volunteer jimson weed in a pot on the front porch.

A little over an inch long at the time.

A little over an inch long at the time.


These hornworms are the caterpillar stage of the sphinx moth, a very large moth that appears to mimic hummingbirds. More about this as I get time to edit all of my photos.

Here is a detail of the caterpillar from about a week later:

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