Why did the White-lined sphinx caterpillar cross the road?

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The last couple of weeks, these caterpillars have been seen roaming the streets in SW Kansas.

It’s hard to miss these finger-sized, brightly colored worms as they cross the road by the hundreds. So why are they crossing the road? To get to the other side where there is more food, of course! Many producers are spraying herbicide in and around fields in preparation for planting fall crops. The white-lined sphinx eats Kochia, pigweed and various other weed species which are common nuisance species in fields and pastures. Once the caterpillars’ food declines from the herbicide, the insects will migrate to the nearest green patch looking for food. Most of the time, these caterpillars will completely ignore crops and will concentrate on these weedy plant species. There are a few reports in the literature that recount brome grass as an occasional target of these caterpillars. Because of this, these caterpillars are generally regarded as beneficial!

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The white-lined sphinx caterpillars can have variable patterns and colors.

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The adults of the white-lined sphinx are very pretty moths that resemble hummingbirds. They can be spotted dashing about, stopping only for brief moments to nectar on flowers. These moths are common at dusk as well as during the day.

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