A New Skin – Popular Hawk Moth

July 26th, 2011 by Ray Burman Leave a reply »

The ever changing Popular Hawk Moth cycle

We all know that our human skin renews itself by constantly flaking off and this mechanism reveals newer skin underneath, it quite a gradual process that happens transparently for most people.

Well this process happens in a very different way for many insects.  Caterpillars for example shed

Popular hawk moth caterpillar

Popular hawk moth caterpillar

there skin up to 4 times before changing into a pupae. This is like all your skin on your body coming off all at once, four times or so in a single month!

I have a couple of Popular Hawk Moth caterpillars that have had there skin replaced for the third time now.  I noticed that a couple of days before shedding, the caterpillar in question stopped eating and was unable to grip onto any leaves, I thought the poor thing was ill….

Popular Hawk Moth caterpillar don’t loose your head

A day later the skin had been shed and I found the old skin. What was interesting to me was the head

part of the shredded skin… It was more than just shredded skin, I noticed that it had most of the original color and also mouth parts and other details all still intact?

As you can see in the picture it looks just like the head of the Popular Hawk moth caterpillar has just fallen off.

It’s all metamorphosis for the Popular Hawk Moth caterpillar

It got me thinking that this shedding is more than just a simple change of skin, it is more a partial metamorphosis.

I was always under the impression that the only metamorphosis for this creature was when it changed inside the pupae to a moth!   This is always the bit that is talked about and taught in schools, however I have found out that this is not the complete picture and was therefore very wrong.

All though the process of growing this creature is also changing quite dramatically until its final incarnation is indistinguishable from its original form.

Popular Hawk Moth Head

I have recently been told that when the skin is shred, the shredded head pops off with such force that it can  land quite a way from the caterpillar!  I wonder if the head popping acceleration is as fast as the Frog Hopper’s jump?


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