Sphinx Moth Pupas

This time of year gardeners may unearth strange looking objects and wonder what is in the earthen cell in their hand. Breaking it open, reveals a strange looking creature nearly 3-inches long. The tail end wiggles in their hand and a strange handle-like structure is evident.

This is the pupa of a sphinx moth. There are numerous species of sphinx moths in Kansas. They are sometimes referred to as hummingbird moths because of their size, ability to hover and long proboscis. If these are found in garden areas, they likely are the pupae of two closely related moths: the tomato hornworm moth or tobacco hornworm moth.

It is not possible to look at a pupa and identify it as either that of a tomato hornworm moth or tobacco hornworm moth. And at a glance, people may look at the moths and say they look the same. Yet they are notably different based on the number of pairs of yellow abdominal spots, and the distinctiveness of a pair of wavy lines on their hind wings.
When tomato hornworm and tobacco moths flights begin, we will address the subject of larvae with distinctive the distinctive horns on their tail ends



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