I write to you from Arapahoe, Ute, and Cheyenne land. I am interested in learning about the different animals that live in the place where I was born. Before we start with today’s animal, I want to emphasize that biological classification as understood by western society has its roots in racism, sexism, and transphobia – here’s a good explainer about why.
Our first moth has a really cool name – Achemon Sphinx (Eumorpha achemon). Moths are defined as every member of the order Lepidoptera that is NOT a butterfly -
Wait what’s the difference between a moth and butterfly? Butterflies fold their wings vertically over their backs while moths tent theirs over their abdomen. Also moths have feathery antennae while butterflies have thin antennae with little balls on the end. Moths evolved a long time before butterflies, with the oldest moth fossil dating to 190 million years ago.
- and there are over 160,000 species of moth. It is a broad group. Achemon Sphinx are within the family Sphingidae, about 1400 species that are all sphinx moths, also called hawk moths. They are agile, fast fliers, and sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds because of their flight style and their generally large size. One cool thing they can do while flying is to move from side to side very rapidly – thought to be an adaptation to predators lying in wait inside of flowers.
They begin life as caterpillars known as hornworms – familiar to gardeners because of their love of eating anything and everything - then overwinter as pupa a few inches below ground. In June and July they emerge as large moths with beautiful brown and purple patterns on their wide wings. The adults eat nectar. They are found throughout the state wherever there are crops being grown, especially around grape leaves. The easiest way to get rid of them is with an invasive species - the chicken.