Friday, August 28, 2009

Tale of the Giant Green Caterpillar

One of my parent's neighbors discovered this massive caterpillar on the side of the road while coming over for a little chat:
What a gem.
Vivid green and startlingly bright reds.

A brown head that was kept hidden for most of the evening. Looks a bit like a walrus with the brown noggin and fuzzy whiskers, eh?

Have I mentioned that this guy was GIANT? And ROTUND? He looks like a bright green turd; but with fancy red dots. A turd with chicken pox.

So: for identification. We're not sure, but we're leaning towards an Antheraea polyphemus also called the polyphemus moth. I had tentatively identified it as a luna moth (check out the luna caterpillar here) until I discovered they only inhabit areas east of the Great Plains. Way off, sonja.

A bit on the polyphemus moth from wiki:
When the eggs hatch small yellow caterpillars emerge. As the caterpillars age, they molt 5 times (the 5th being into a pupa). Each instar is slightly different, but on their fifth and final instar they become a bright green color with silver spots on their side. They feed heavily on their host plant and can grow up to 3-4 inches long. They then spin cocoons of brown silk, usually wrapped in leaves of the host plant.


  1. Anonymous9:41 AM

    I have found one of these. This caterpillar has encased itself in a cocoon now.

  2. I just washed our bedding today and when I brought my daughters quilt in from airing out, one of these bad boys had attached himself to it. The kids and I were very happy to find this post. We had to know what the "ugly bug" was. ;0) Thanks for the links too.

  3. Aren't they a treat to find? It took me a while to make a tentative identification but boy, I sure had a hoot taking pictures. Ours too, is in a cocoon. I'll be interested to see when it emerges and to verify our ID.

  4. So thankful to find this post. Great pictures and definitely what we just found in my mom's front yard. I love identifying with the kids!

  5. My daughter found one of these yesterday evening. Trying to identify. Thanks for the info. It is now in the process of cocooning :)

  6. What fun! We found that our guy stayed in his cocoon for several months. I kept him in our shed and lightly misted his tupperware every so often. It’s also helpful to have a place for it to emerge, climb, and then hang (in order to give his wings a chance to dry properly) before flying away. Ours had some trouble with crumpled wings, which is fairly common but also tragic. Some small branches would work perfectly. All the best! This is such a fun process for kids and adults alike to watch.