Why does a hawk­moth larva have a horn?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Our Wildworld - Richard Jones

A Many hawk­moth cater­pil­lars are em­bel­lished at their rear ends with a horn-like spine; in North Amer­ica these lar­vae (and the moths that de­velop from them) are reg­u­larly known as horn­worms. The role of these ap­pendages re­mains some­thing of a mys­tery. They are tough, but hardly rigid, so seem­ingly not much of a prickly de­ter­rent against hun­gry birds. And since birds do not have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of car­toon stereo­types, they prob­a­bly don’t mis­take the horn for a stinger of some sort, ei­ther. Nev­er­the­less, they are still used in self-de­fence. I once ob­served a blue tit at­tempt to snatch a fully grown lime hawk­moth cater­pil­lar. It was at least 80mm long and as thick as my fin­ger, and was am­bling over the soil seek­ing a place to pu­pate. The larva thrashed about on the ground, madly writhing back­wards and for­wards with feather-ruf­fling vigour. I would not have wanted to be the diminu­tive bird on the re­ceiv­ing end of the sweep­ing blow of its tail spike.

Sport­ing the zingi­est lime green, the eyed hawk­moth feeds on ap­ple and crab ap­ple.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.