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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Cahuilla Use of Piyatem, Larvae of the White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) as Food


In September, 1884, William Greenwood Wright published an article entitled "A Naturalist in the Desert" in the popular serial Overland Monthly (Wright 1884:279-284). This short paper contains a number of observations which substantiate existing ethnographic data regarding Cahuilla Indian village locations, agricultural methods, ethnobotanical practices, and social customs. Specifically, however, it contains a detailed graphic description of Cahuilla caterpillar exploitation. This particular paragraph of Wright's article is worth reprinting here for several reasons: (1) identification of the insect and its host plant are included; (2) the use of this insect, the White-lined Sphinx Moth, Hyles lineata (Fabricius), has seldom been recorded previously in an ethnographic context in California or elsewhere; and (3) Wright's description has not received attention and might be of interest to Cahuilla scholars.

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