Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
Butterfly and Moth Site

Pacific Green Sphinx [Arctonotus lucidus ] Rearing Images

Related pages:

These ova were collected from a female, captured 2-8-2007 near Castaic, CA. The eggs are quite small and bright green when freshly laid. Note that the eggs were laid on a number of surfaces - everything from the host plant cuttings to the paper towel and aluminum foil which were resent in the container. These photos were taken on 2-15-2007.

I was fortunate to find a small host plant growing in my backyard. I had previously written these off as a common weeds, but was happy to discover that this plant is actually a Primrose species - Oenothera biennis, which can be used to raise the Green Sphinx Larvae. 2-20-2007

On 2-21-2007, the ova were nearing maturity, and the larvae could be easliy seen inside.

Not much later that day, the eggs began hatching.

I managed to capture one larva chewing its way out of the egg on time lapse video while under the microscope. See the video on YouTube:

Only a day later, at least one larva had grown substantially - it was nearly twice the size of the fresh ones. 2-22-2007

By 3-04-2007, many of the larvae had molted into 2nd instar. The difference between them is clearly visible - the first instars are bright green with a small black head. The second instars vary from medium to dark green, and no longer have a black head.

These 3rd instars show quite a bit of variation, including two color forms, green and black. They retain these colors through the rest of their larval lives. 3-9-2007

3-13-2007 here are some 2nd instars and a dark, 4th instar (note the interesting pattern on its side). The next two images show slightly different 4th instar patterns, 3-16-2007. A couple more are shown on the next row, 3-18-2007

Here is a freshly molted 5th instar on 3-19-2007 (left) and three more shots on 3-21-2007. Note the change in color as the new skin "dries". Be sure and watch the YouTube time lapse video of the molting process!

Pacific Green Sphinx 2 larvae molt in time-lapse

These larvae are just about as big as they're going to get. 3-20-2007(left 2) 3-21-2007(right 2).

Once the larvae reach maturity, stop eating and start wandering, something odd happens - they start get smaller. A LOT smaller! By the time they've burrowed into the soil and made their pupation chambers, they are less than half their full size. 3-27-2007 The third image shows the bucket they were reared in. The screen bottom was intended to allow the frass to drop into a collection bucket below but the larvae managed to squeeze through the 1/4" mesh and get into the bottom chamber anyway. Oh well!

4-6-2007 Here are a few of the pre-pupae in the pupation tray. Oddly, many of the wandering larvae burrowed in and out of the soil, apparently not finding what they were looking for. They eventually shrivelled-up and died without pupating. The soil had been kept dry to avoid mold and fungus growth. However, the larvae may prefer damp, moist earth. Next time, 100% peat moss will be used, and kept moist to help encourage pupation.

Finally on 4-10-2007 through 4-12-2007 the group started to pupate. Note the change in color as the pupal shell thickens and hardens. As the first image shows, inside the pupa is a mostly clear, green liquid. The more opaque cream colored area in the abdomen is body fat, which provides the energy for metamorphosis. As development progresses, the liquid cell soup inside gradually forms into all the different cells of the adult insect.

Finally, the pupae are fully formed and hardened, and start the diapause process, where they lay dormant until development is triggered during the winter. 4-14-2007

The pupae were kept indoors in this tray on top of a thin layer of soil all summer. In late November, they were moved out to the garage to experience the cold temperatures. They were occasionally misted lightly with water. In mid-January, they were misted more heavily (weekly) so the soil stayed fairly damp to simulate winter precipitation and encourage development. In mid February, the pupal shells started to become slightly creamy and opaque, and the tray was brought indoors for closer monitoring. These images from 2-8-2008 show the development, well under way.

By 2-12-2008, legs and other well-developed adult legs and such could be seen through the pupal shell (left 2 images). Once at this point, there were no noticeable changes until eclosion. The right-most image shows the "opaque" condition where development is not quite as far along.

Finally on 2-25-2008, I found this freshly emerged female in the tray at 8am. I had turned the lights on in the "lab" at about 7am, leading me to believe that eclosion occurs not long after dawn. In another 30-45 minutes, she had finished and flattened her wings out horizontally. Note the piece of pupal shell stuck to her upper thorax. I carefully removed it with tweezers for the subsequent photos.

Return To:

SCV Butterflies

Main Index Page