Bug watch: Hawk moth caterpillar
Photo - Libby Cameron
This is the king of the autumn caterpillars, a voracious eater that grows into a sizeable creature up to 7cm long with large spots along its body and a white-tipped spine at the end. It feeds on tender foliage, and can decimate a patch of impatiens or sweet potato in a couple of days. The caterpillars are too big to squash, but because each moth only lays one or two eggs at a time, gardeners never have to deal with massive populations, so individual caterpillars can be moved to plants that will either soon lose their leaves, or need to be heavily pruned. Grape vines are a good choice. After a few weeks, when it is about 7cm long, the caterpillar will create its cocoon,where it will stay for up to 25 weeks. The adult hawk moth is an important pollinator of many plants, including pawpaws.