Last May I took a ride down a country lane just outside of town and saw some unusual insects. See: https://johnandmarylivingitupinecuador.wordpress.com/?s=country+road for additional pictures from that ride. Among other fascinating insects I watched this caterpillar crawl across the path:
At that time, I took the pictures and moved on wondering if this was some sea creature meant for living on coral reefs that somehow got washed ashore. I have never seen anything quite like that caterpillar again, until this morning when I came another caterpillar in our garden:
He was a little over an inch long and had a bit thicker body than the caterpillar I saw on the back road and sported a yellow-green tint to the coral-like spines, but certainly looked to be in the same family. I went back inside to get my camera so that we could share this new insect with our grandchildren.
I have heard that the spines on these caterpillars are poisonous and that they also bite, so I carefully coaxed this caterpillar onto a napkin so that I could get close up pictures.
From what I can find on Google Search, I believe this caterpillar is in the same family as IO Moth caterpillars. I am no expert, but in my experience insects that are afraid of being eaten cloak themselves in clever camouflage and avoid being out in the open. On the other end of the spectrum insects that are poisonous have bright displays to warn prospective hunters not to eat them.
I do not see how a little insect could sport any brighter ostentatious display of color and design that this caterpillar!
I tried to gently roll the little guy over onto his back to get pictures of his belly and feet, but he grabbed the stick and seemed to be biting or stinging the end. (Glad I did not decide to just use my hand!)
His underside is bright red and yellow with suction-cup style feet.
Here is one more close-up of this IO Caterpillar’s mouth parts:
Life continues to fascinate us here where…
Life is good (and varied) in Ecuador!