What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Massed Larvae in Coba ruins (Coba Q.R)
The attached photo was taken in the Coba ruins near the small town of Coba on the Yucatan Peninsula the summer of 1999. I came across the transparency recently cataloging old images. These are massed larvae of some insect, I suppose butterfly or moth, on the trunk of a tree, several feet off the ground. The scale is not obvious from the photo although some idea is gotten by noting the reticulation of the tree bark but they were very large. The larvae (caterpillars) were at least 6 inches long and round about as a man’s thumb. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. The size of the the individual larvae and the extent of the larva mass was striking. Do you have and identification?
Philip Brody
Bethesda, Maryland

Hi Philip,
This is the third request we have received over the years for the identification of this species, each time with an excellent photograph. Though we have tried for hours, we have never been able to identify this species. The more recent request arrived two weeks ago, and the original request came in August 2006. This is probably our most nagging yet unidentified species, and we hope one day to have the answer.

Update: (07/15/2007) Mystery Striped Caterpillar Aggregation from Chacchoben
Mystery Striped Caterpillar Aggregation from Chacchoben (08/04/2006) strange caterpillars Possible identification of aforementioned: Arsenura armida www.saturniidae.com www.insectcompany.com/silkmoth /kwaarmida.htm Best of luck!
PS Saw your interview in the July 2007 issue of Sunset magazine—kudos!

Dear PCG,
The links you provided did not have caterpillar images, but we did a websearch and were led to a page with many caterpllar images of Arsenura armida. Though they look similar, we are not thoroughly conviced this is the species we have received three images of thus far. Glad you saw the Sunset Magazine interview.

Update: (06/30/2008) Arsenura armida Caterpillars
With our fourth submission of Caterpillar Aggregation images, we are convinced that this species is Arsenura armida, a Neotropical Silkmoth that ranges from tropical Mexico to Bolivia and Southeastern Brazil. We just located a website with valuable information written by James T. Costa , Department of Biology Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Mexico

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