Nature: Butterflies and Moths

Tomato Sphinx 番茄天蛾 (Family Sphingidae, Sphinx Moths)

This giant hawk moth, with a wing-spread of almost five inches, is such a powerful flier that sometimes ships a thousand miles at sea have found one clinging exhausted to the mast. Almost all over North, South, and Central America, except in the regions of great cold, this great journey is found. If, on a summer evening, you look into the darkening sky and see one of the wings and the speed and sureness of its flight.

One of the delightful experiences of the dusk of the evening is to stand by a cluster of evening primrose flowers, opening their petals to the musk-scented air, and see the hawk moths come spiraling in from the distant fields seeking this rapturous source of sweet nectar. The moth hovers over the deep-throated flower like a hummingbird and uncoils its long tongue to reach inside for a much-sought repast. If you bent down very slowly so as not to disturb the drinker, you might see that the Tomato Sphinx has a tongue at least as long as its whole body! But, at the slightest disturbing movement, away it darts with incredible speed.

The great green caterpillar has a peculiar downward curving horn at its tail end. You may see the caterpillar lift its rear end off the leaf and wave this horn around in the air in a threatening manner. Many a bird is frightened away by the fearsome sight, though there is actually no danger. The caterpillar feeds on the potato, the tomato and other plants of the potato family, and sometimes becomes a serious pest.

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