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Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.

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Feb 29, 12     Comments Off on Frangipani Worm, Pseudosphinx tetrio, Giant Sphinx Moth

Good evening readers, here is something super cool, it’s a six inch long worm called a Frangipani Worm, Pseudosphinx tetrio that will eventually turn into a giant moth! I got a call from my buddy Mark yesterday at the World famous Dive Bus Hut and he said, “Barry, you need to come over to my house ASAP and check out these long, beautiful worms /caterpillars that are covering my Frangipani tree”. I told him I wish I could but I was super busy but, I will try as hard as I can to get there the following day. So today I called him again and asked if the worms were still there and he said yes, I told him I was on my way!! Once at the house I almost fell over with delight in seeing something so cool and for once having a camera in hand. Mark wasn’t kidding when he said “there are caterpillars everywhere”,  I think we found at least 10 today, most were a bit too high for me to reach but we lucked out and found a few feeding down low. With Marks help I stayed close to an hour shooting away and watching them eat, it was great. The below description comes from a site called “All at Sea”, read on!!!www.allatsea.net/article/January_2007/The_Value_of_the_Frangipani_Worms

The Frangipani worm, also known as the Frangipani Hornworm due to the spike near its tail, begins life the same as all butterflies and moths, as an egg. Measuring approximately 8/100 of an inch, the pale green Frangipani worm eggs are laid in clusters of 50-100 on the underside of leaves. Within hours of hatching, the larvae, or caterpillars, take on the outstanding coloration described above. It is believed that the coloration of the caterpillars warns predators away as they mistake the caterpillars for venomous Coral snakes. Predators who do not pay heed to the danger-signaling colors may find themselves sickened or even killed by the poisonous toxins harbored in the caterpillar’s bodies. Found from Brazil through Central America, the West Indies, and southern Florida, the Frangipani caterpillars feed upon the leaves of dogbane plants including frangipani (or plumeria), allamanda, rubber vine, and the devil’s potato. These plants produce sap that is toxic to most species, including man, but which the caterpillars are able to ingest without harm. Scientists studying the Frangipani caterpillars have reported occasional bites when handling the caterpillars as well as some instances of keratitis when hairs from the caterpillars have inadvertently been rubbed into a human’s eyes. Because the caterpillars do not have a flexible outer skin, they must molt as they grow, sometimes molting as many as five times within a two week period. Once they have reached their maximum size of up to six inches, the next phase of development takes place as they become pupae, encased in a hard shell which falls to the ground where it incubates in leaf litter or in subterranean burrows. When first formed the pupae is yellow but within a few hours the pupal covering develops brown spots with darker banding on the abdomen. As the pupae mature they become brownish red with darker, almost black abdominal banding. Upon emerging (eclosing) from the pupae, the Frangipani worm becomes the Tetrio or Giant Gray Sphinx moth. When first eclosed, the moth is helpless and vulnerable as it waits for its wings to dry and become stable for flight. Females, larger than their male counterparts, have wingspans of over five inches. While some consider the Giant Gray Sphinx moth to be rather drab and unattractive, closer inspection reveals an intricate wing pattern of camouflaging with black, gray, white, and several shades of brown mixed in fuzzy looking zigzagging lines broken by solid color patches. Their bodies are banded in gray, brown and white while their heads sport very large black eyes and long white antennae. Not particularly attracted to light as most moths, the Giant Gray Sphinx moth feeds upon nectar. Due to their long, needle-like proboscis and the way they hover and dart about when feeding from a flower, they are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. And, like hummingbirds and bees, the Giant Gray Sphinx moth carries pollen from one plant to another thus providing a valuable service. Seen virtually year-round in Central America except for the months of December and March, the Giant Gray Sphinx moth has been observed in the summers as far north as Pennsylvania as well as states bordering the Mississippi River indicating they may migrate for very long distances. Although there is no doubt that the Giant Gray Sphinx moth caterpillar, commonly called the Frangipani worm, feeds upon the leaves of ornamental plants such as frangipani and allamanda, experts disagree on the danger they represent to these plants. While the local people I spoke with concerning the “worm” I found on the wall swear that every worm should be killed to prevent the total destruction of decorative plants, entomologists differ in opinions. Some say the “worms” only eat leaves that are about to fall as a result of the plant’s cyclical shedding. Others claim that, unless there is a heavy infestation of the worms, only a few leaves will be lost to their feeding.  Still others claim that only a handful of Frangipani worms can strip a 20′ tree bare within a few days.

I am still trying to photograph my little octopus, he was in his shell home all day! That’s about it, another fun day in Curacao, Barry

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