Frangipani hornworm caterpillar

animal, Key West Field Guide

Pseudosphinx tetrio

Although most people who walked by while I was admiring this caterpillar shared the wonder of such a gigantic, colorful creature by taking photos and watching it wander down the sidewalk, a few imparted more negative opinions. One informed me that it would bite me (it didn’t). That it would burn me like “muriatic acid” (it didn’t). And a third suggested I would catch a disease (haven’t appeared to). But none of these people knew the name of the caterpillar or even what it fed on. After identifying this larva online, I transported him to the nearest frangipani tree about 200 yards away, which had about 5 other Pseudosphinx tetrio caterpillars munching on the leathery leaves. Moral of this story- assess the risks and decide for yourself. If it has a mouth, it can bite. (I’d probably survive.) It could sting. (Again, I’d probably survive.) And truthfully, if I got sick from a caterpillar, I’d probably think it was worth the novelty. (And I’d probably survive.)

Pseudosphinx tetrio caterpillar

Pseudosphinx tetrio caterpillar

And for true excitement, topped only by watching paint dry, some video of the caterpillar munching on a frangipani leaf.

 

io moth caterpillar showing anal and abdominal prolegs

ap·o·se·mat·ic

animal, vo•cab•u•lar•y

(adj.) conspicuous and serving to warn

It never fails – find a hairy caterpillar with kids and they always claim that it’s “the one that stings!” To be fair, this one was virulently green with black-tipped spines and a bold red stripe- it certainly looked a bit dangerous. Never having met this beauty before, however, I decided to test the theory.