Datura and the moth

We were heading to visit my family. They live east of El Paso. We had wanted to go in June, but by that time it was already too hot. It is perfect now.

This is the view we got where we parked at their house. Pretty darn awesome!

First up, is this pretty but small flower. It can be easily be overlooked, but if you are out this way I hope you see it. It is Purplemat (Nama demissum)!

So it was getting dark and near the house were these Moonflowers or sometimes called Jimsonweed (Datura). And the Carolina Sphinx or Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) were nectaring at the flowers! Update: I just found out I misidentified the moth. Bob Biagi at BugGuide told me that the difference between the two is the hind wing on M. quinquemaculatus has one wide and 2 or 3 thin bands. The M. seta has 2 or 3 wide bands on the hind wings. So in addition to counting the yellow spots on abdomen, the hind wings can help verify. This means they have both species coming to their flowers! I saw M. seta caterpillars on the Jimsonweed.

The proboscis was so loooong! They were so much fun to watch going from flower to flower.

Here this one crashed into the wall which allowed for a photo not in motion.

Another view!

Next, I took out the UV light to see what we could find. Besides a scorpion like we saw at Monahans, we found this Orbweaver spider.
The Rainbow cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) was just as pretty in the UV light as it was in the daylight!
The spines on the Horse crippler cactus (Echinocactus texensis) fluoresced too!

One rock fluoresced green and another did orange. However, I could not get the orange one to show in the photo. A wonderful day and evening after the drive.

Keep looking!

The more you know, the more you see and the more you see, the more you know.


  1. Wow, I do love those sphinx moths! It pains me to read how much people hate the hornworms on my gardening group posts. And who knew about fluorescent cactus spines!

  2. When i mentioned to a neighbor that i didnt use poisons in my yard because i didnt want to kill all my butterfly larva she looked at me with a totally blank expression. Dont think she had ever considered it so yes Mary i think people dont make the connection. Ignorance.

  3. Mary I finally had the tomato (five spotted) hornworm as opposed to the tobacco/Carolina. Will try to send it soon but have been busy with symposium. The Tomato worm was brown with the angled lines. The tobacco/Carolina ones have been turning up with the parasitic wasp cocoons a lot this year. Love that long feeding tube!!! I used to watch them on my datura in Carrollton. It is sad that people don’t make that connection about the caterpillars.

  4. Kathy, That would be cool to see your photos of the cat! I look forward to it. Really is sad about the connection. Maybe NPSOT need to put up bill boards along the highways with their life cycles??

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