It’s been almost a year exactly since I shared a photograph of an unknown caterpillar that was devouring the basil plant in my garden. A few months ago, my students and I were able to successfully raise one of those critters indoors and finally identify it as a Convolvulus Hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli)!
Again, we had found the caterpillar munching my basil plant, but my husband and I have also found eggs on a sweet potato plant at his farm.
The eggs are smooth, greenish spheres and are laid on the underside of leaves. The larvae will eat a range of plants, including but not limited to daisy, taro, morning glory, sunflower, purslane, and some legumes. And as we’ve learned – basil and sweet potato!
The young caterpillars are green with a straight horn on their tail ends, but the larvae will go through five instar phases, molting its skin at each stage.
Later instars develop pale diagonal stripes and their horns curve backward. Even later instars may become dark brown. The caterpillars are quite large, growing up to 8 cm in length.
Our caterpillar buried a few centimeters under gravel and leaf litter to form its pupa, which was glossy and reddish brown. The moths spend between 5 and 26 days in this stage.
Adults Convolvulus Hawkmoths are grey with light and dark patterns. The abdomen has pink patches on the side of each segment.
I have never seen these moths flying, but like other hawkmoths, they are able to hover in flight.
I am thrilled that we were able to raise this – my first! – moth and share our discoveries with you! Have you ever raised butterflies or moths at home? It truly is a fascinating experience.