Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hookah-smoking Caterpillar Discovered

Nature never fails to amaze and entertain. I can almost hear strains of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly in the background (a song said to have actually been 'In the Garden of Eden' but slurred by who knows what substance in the 60's).

Thanks to another inquisitive local mind (Gale) Debbie's unusual caterpillar has been identified as the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia). I've seen and photographed the moth in my front yard before, and it is huge, apparently the largest moth in North America with a wingspan of 5 to 6 inches. According to what I've read they are often referred to as silkworm moths and are in the family Saturniidae.

The creature is eating a Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) tree. That's trippy enough as the plant is used in many pharmaceuticals today for a variety of illnesses. Also called the Chaste Berry tree, in folk medicine the berries help women with a number of female disorders, and the leaves used in a tea reportedly work as an anti-Viagra for men.

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