Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Huge Pupa found in park

Last Saturday, October 15, I received an excited phone call from Brad Klein, a Central Park birder and nature lover with a special interest in entomology. "I found a chrysalid near the rocks west of the Great Lawn!" he said. He subsequently sent the following e-mail and several photos, one of which is at left
Hi Marie --

The critter was among fallen leaves and dry grass, and I presume is a species that overwinters on the ground. It did not appear to have fallen from overhanging vegatation etc, but perhaps I am mistaken.

It measures 50mm in length.

Best wishes, Brad

PS These are among the first shots with my new camera. Very exciting.

P.S. I sent these pics to David Wagner, author of Caterpillars of Eastern North America, to see what he says.
Two days later Brad wrote again, having heard from the caterpillar expert:

Dave Wagner has suggested that the pupa is likely a Sphingid moth. More research to follow. I wonder if the critter could be reared successfully. I suppose it's a matter of diapause (the moth's, not mine). Now to find out exactly what that term means.

Marie, perhaps you've the best idea of what hawkmoths are most common in Central Park. Wagner suggested the genus Eumorpha.

I answered:

I'm pretty sure we've never had a sightings of any moth in the genus Eumorpha in CP, though I've had an Achemon Sphinx at our Lost Lake cabin in Putnam County.

These are the 3 Sphinxes on my CP List: : Hummingbird Clearwing [
Hemaris thysbe], Snowberry Clearwing [Hemaris diffinis] and Nessus Sphinx [Amphion floridensis]. The Nessus is quite common. We see it at the Sap Tree at dusk almost every day in early summer

Brad wrote back promptly:

That's interesting. I've seen those three clearwings in the park, but they seem too small for this big pupa.Have you seen their larvae? I have not. The tomato hornworm seems like the kind of critter that might be in the park, since I think they are sometimes raised for school projects.I know that larva is a big one.