Like Some Heavy Fruit
Big Poplar Sphinx
Three poplar trees stand isolated in a large field in Gardner, Massachusetts. Like some heavy fruit or nut, the sphinx, clasping to remnant leaf petioles, dangle precariously in the wind. Far below, in the late July heat, I discover their frass and bits of discarded leaves. The big poplar sphinx is always out of my reach.
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Two enormous big poplar sphinx caterpillars rest after devouring a set of aspen leaves. Disproportionately large heads and a deeply wrinkled hide help to make these two characters into the cute and comical creatures before you, but these features are also typical of individuals that have only recently shed their skin. Now, in their final stage as caterpillars, the sphinx will feed and grow rapidly, becoming one of the true monsters of New England caterpillar kind.
The leaf petiole stubs at the top of this photograph demonstrate a crafty behavior. Before moving on to find fresh food, each caterpillar will sever its leaf remnant at the base, letting all evidence of active feeding fall to the forest floor far below.
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