While walking around the garden the other morning, I noticed that the bed of pentas I have planted just outside the screen of the back porch had been chewed to the stems. These pentas came through the winter very well and were already blooming. Not anymore. There were four of these cartoonish looking caterpillars chomping away on the pentas in this bed.
These are the caterpillars for the Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa). It's one of the hummingbird type moths that come out around dusk to nectar on its favorite flowers, pentas. After starting out bright green, they turn a drab brown color before burrowing into the leaf litter and pupating. Now, I have learned that pentas are the host plant for this particular moth. I am letting these particular cats go through their life-cycle unhindered by me. I'm really hoping that this won't be a constant occurrence. If it seems to be, I will plant some pentas around the side of the house and use it as a "caterpillar relocation center."
I have to say that I think these are really the most interesting caterpillars I've ever seen and the grandkids think they're great. So, for now, we are enjoying them.
Uh-oh. We aren't the only ones enjoying them. Perhaps they will be easier to control than I first thought.