Not Life in the Pits or Treetops … but Gaudy

At the third session of the 2018 Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) Volunteer Nature Stewardship class, Life in the Pits & Treetops, a bit of life in shrubs commanded a great deal of attention. Tom Wilson spotted a camouflaged critter …

This chunky caterpillar about 5″ long was nestled on the stem of a possum grape vine (Cissus verticillata) on the mosquito dike at FMEL. Disturbed by our attentions, the caterpillar puffed up its front segments in a quite credible imitation of a snake (mimicry) …

The dark spots that appear to be eyes are “eye spots”, decorative markings that give the distinct appearance of being eyes.

The caterpillar (larvae) likely is the fifth and final instar (stage) of development on its way to becoming a gaudy sphinx moth (Eumorpha labruscae), a widely distributed, but not especially common, neotropical large (4″+) green moth. It will pupate in the ground. Plants in the Vitaceae (grape) family are its larval food.

Click here to read/see a delightful account of its development into a magnificent moth. The larvae (caterpillars) transform dramatically though their five stages of development.