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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sipping sphinx

Some rapid movement in the shrub outside of my office window caught my eye today.  It had the look of a hummingbird at first, but with a better view I realized it was slightly smaller:

This is the first White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) I've seen on Bodega Head proper.  (I wrote about one in the village of Salmon Creek last summer see post from 30 July 2014.)

The moth was actively nectaring from the Myoporum flowers.  In the photo above, can you see its long proboscis arching down towards the leaves?

Here's another view, where you can see that the needle-like proboscis has been inserted into the center of a flower:

Below you can see the moth with its proboscis partly furled.  (I'm not sure if it was furling or unfurling it.)

I think you can tell that I was pretty impressed with the length of this moth's proboscis.  I was taking these pictures while the moth was at least 15-20' off the ground, so I didn't know at the time that I had captured the moth with its proboscis extended.  The next picture was actually one of my first pictures.  When I first looked at it, I thought I might be seeing the proboscis, but I wasn't certain, because it was so long!  Now that you're used to what the proboscis looks like, can you find it in the picture below?

I'm guessing you found the proboscis, but here's the same picture with arrows to confirm (below).  The top arrow points to the location of the moth's head, near the intersection of its forewing and antenna.  The bottom arrow points to the lower end of the proboscis where it's inserted into the flower. 

I learned something interesting about White-lined Sphinx Moths today.  It sounds like they fly year-round in southern California, and they colonize sites to the north every year.  So does this mean that this individual flew up the coast and recently arrived in northern California?  Recently, there has been a significant northward movement of Painted Ladies.  I wonder if other insects have been taking advantage of favorable weather conditions for moving north, too?

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