Unraveling Eumorpha achemon
Eumorpha achemon Achemon sphinx
In Greek, eu (good) morpha (shape)
Achemon is one of two mischievous brothers known together as Cercopes. They were thieves, and Hercules punished them.
In 1773 the entomologist Dru Drury first described a moth as Achemon.
Eumorpha achemon belongs to the family of moths known as Sphingidae, including about 1,450 species. They have long proboscises, a feeding tube attached to their head to siphon nectar from flowers.
These moths are known as fast flyers. Often compared to jet planes though their morpha existed first. They all have a similar elongated and pointed appearance but vary in color and size. They are the only moths with hovering capability, an example of convergent evolution shared with hummingbirds, certain bats, and hoverflies.Most Sphingidae pupate underground, burrowing themselves in the soil. Others prefer leaf litter. Sphingids possess the most acute color vision of any animals, discriminating floral colors at light intensities that would appear pitch black to the human eye.1
1. [David L. Wagner, “HORNWORMS (SPHINX OR HAWK MOTHS) –: SPHINGIDAE,” in Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton University Press, 2005), pp. 247-278.]↩
Achemon sphinx has been found all over North America, beyond the borders of the United States in Mexico and Canada. A study shows that they have been declining in the Northeastern United States.2
If they are lucky enough to reach adulthood, they will live for up to a month. Cotesia congregata is a parasitoid wasp that might decide to lay their eggs in the larvae of Eumorpha achemon. If that is the case, no moth will transform from these molecules but wasps instead.
2. [See Bruce E. Young et al., “Are Pollinating Hawk Moths Declining in the Northeastern United States? An Analysis of Collection Records,” PLOS ONE 12, no. 10 (May 2017).]↩
If the Achemon sphinx destiny is to reach adulthood, they will fly at dusk and beyond. Crepuscular and nocturnal they are often seen near light sources.
Achemon risks the chance of being eaten by the Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), a nocturnal nightjar in decline, that loves to snack on moths.
Achemon larvae feed on various genera of Vitaceae, including grape leaves and Parthenocissus quinquefolia, known as Virginia creeper.
Achemon adults will drink the nectar of various plant species, including the native nectar of Phlox and at least three other plants introduced to North America.
- Lonicera japonica from East Asia around 1806
- Philadelphus coronarius from Southern Europe about 1807
- Petunia hybrida from South America around 1823
Does this make Achemon an adaptable species?
Platanthera praeclara would prefer that Achemon drink her nectar.
Platanthera praeclara is the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid.
It was first documented by the John C. Fremont expedition in what is now Wyoming in 1842.
The prairie fringed orchids were added to the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants on September 28, 1989.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a recovery plan for western prairie fringed orchids in 1996.In 2008, she was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List.In 2015, Kristina Fox et al. wrote Nectar Robbery and Thievery in the Hawk Moth (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) - Pollinated Western Prairie Fringed Orchid Platanthera praeclara. Apparently, some species of hawk moths commit nectar larceny, removing nectar from every flower of the inflorescence without removing or depositing pollen.
Not all hawk moths are made the same. Two species of hawk moths that have been found to commit nectar larceny do so because their proboscis is longer than the 50-mm nectar spur.
A pollinarium can only be removed from a flower if the moth has a proboscis that is shorter than the spur and compound eyes of an appropriate size and spatial arrangement.3 The moth carries the pollinium in front of their head, an ideal position for pollinating flowers visited afterward.
3. [Kristina Fox et al., “Nectar Robbery and Thievery in the Hawk Moth (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae)-Pollinated Western Prairie Fringed Orchidplatanthera Praeclara,” Annals of the Entomological Society of America 108, no. 6 (January 2015): pp. 1001.]↩
Eumorpha achemon is one of five hawk moths pollinating the Platanthera praeclara orchid.
Platanthera praeclara lures pollinating suitors with her nocturnally fragrant flowers. Pollination, communication, expression, and articulation are practices through which organisms involve themselves in one another’s lives.4She is most pollinated by the non-native Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth ( Hyles euphorbiae) which was introduced around 1965 as a biological control agent for leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula). If this control mechanism works, she will need to rely on native pollinators to survive.
4. [Carla Hustak and Natasha Myers, “Involutionary Momentum: Affective Ecologies and the Sciences of Plant/Insect Encounters,” Differences 23, no. 3 (January 2012): pp. 98.]↩
If Platanthera praeclara could speak our language, would she ask for help?
Her being depends on her relationship with the mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. A diverse community above ground supports a diverse community below ground.
Eumorpha achemon feeds on grape leaves and Virginia creeper.
The interspecies mingling of plants and insects breed the complexity of life.
Achemon is one of two mischievous brothers known together as Cercopes.
In another myth, Zeus turns them into monkeys, and in another, he turns them into stone.
Drury, Dru. Illustrations of Natural History. II. Vol. II. III vols. London, 1773. https://doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.61910.
Fox, Kristina, Pati Vitt, Kirk Anderson, Gerald Fauske, Steven Travers, Dean Vik, and Marion O. Harris. “Pollination of a Threatened Orchid by an Introduced Hawk Moth Species in the Tallgrass Prairie of North America.” Biological Conservation 167 (2013): 316–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.08.026.
Fox, Kristina, Kirk M. Anderson, Rebecca Andres, Meredith C. Foster, Celia E. Foster, Dean Vik, Pati Vitt, and Marion O. Harris. “Nectar Robbery and Thievery in the Hawk Moth (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae)-Pollinated Western Prairie Fringed Orchidplatanthera Praeclara.” Annals of the Entomological Society of America 108, no. 6 (2015): 1000–1013. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sav093.
Goedeke, T., Sharma, J., Delphey, P. & Marshall Mattson, K. 2008. Platanthera praeclara. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132834A3464336. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T132834A3464336.en.
Hustak, Carla, and Natasha Myers. “Involutionary Momentum: Affective Ecologies and the Sciences of Plant/Insect Encounters.” differences 23, no. 3 (2012): 74–118. https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1892907.
Travers, Steven E., Gerald M. Fauske, Kristina Fox, Andrew A. Ross, and Marion O. Harris. “The Hidden Benefits of Pollinator Diversity for the Rangelands of the Great Plains: Western Prairie Fringed Orchids as a Case Study.” Rangelands 33, no. 3 (2011): 20–26. https://doi.org/10.2111/1551-501x-33.3.20.
Wagner, David L. “HORNWORMS (SPHINX OR HAWK MOTHS) –: SPHINGIDAE.” In Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History, 247–78. Princeton University Press, 2005. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t2wx.22.
Westwood , R, and C Borkowsky. “Sphinx Moth Pollinators for the Endangered Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Platanthera Praeclara in Manitoba, Canada.” Journal of lepidopterists society 58, no. 1 (2004): 14.
Young, Bruce E., Stephanie Auer, Margaret Ormes, Giovanni Rapacciuolo, Dale Schweitzer, and Nicole Sears. “Are Pollinating Hawk Moths Declining in the Northeastern United States? An Analysis of Collection Records.” PLOS ONE 12, no. 10 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185683.