Unknown Beautiful Caterpillar
My 2-year old daughter discovered this caterpillar amongst “Primrose” jasmine and “Barbara Karst” bougainvillea here in Tucson, Arizona on Sep. 30, 2006. After being “captured”, it was offered jasmine and appeared uninterested. However, it seems to enjoy eating the bougainvillea. The color seems a little off in this photo. Its underside, head, and rear-end are leaf-green; its back and sides are maroon. The teardrop shaped “spikes” on each section of the body are metallic silver on the topsides and red-tipped white on the undersides. The “bumps” that line each section of the body are metallic gold. It is absolutely beautiful and, unfortunately, I have so far been unable to get a picture of it which does it the slightest bit of justice. My daughter absolutely loves the little critter and so we have given it a home in a large “bug house”. I’m not really sure how to care for it, but I have equipped it with a rigid stick for climbing, a damp cotton pad for moisture, and bougainvillea leaves for food. If you are able to tell me, I would be greatly interested in learning what kind of caterpillar it is, what it will become, and how best to care for it. I think it would be great if my daughter could witness its metamorphosis before we release it back outside. Thank you!
This is a Hubbard’s Silkmoth or Mesquite Moth Caterpillar, Sphingicampa hubbardi. The caterpillars food plants are listed as acacia and mesquite. Perhaps you have one of those nearby. If not, it seems we might be able to add bouganvilla to the list of host plants. The adult moths are grayish brown with rosy pink hind wings. We would love to recieve a photo of the adult if the metamorphosis is successful.