Huge red and yellow caterillar???
July 30, 2009
Hi, I am staying in the eastern cape of South Africa and yesterday spotted this caterpillar? grub? crawling along the ground. It was approx 3″ long and appeared to be trying to burrow or dig into the ground. It moved like a caterpillar – that is to say it lifted the centre of its body off the ground as it moved. The local men told me it is a ‘worm’….. but we wondered what is it really?? I have tried looking online but no luck. I hope you can help!
Eastern Cape, South Africa

Unknown Caterpillar from South Africa

Carpenter Moth Caterpillar from South Africa

Hi Sarah,
We are fairly certain that this is a Giant Silk Moth Caterpillar in the family Saturniidae, but we could not locate a matching image on the World’s Greatest Saturniidae website.  We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he knows what species this is.
Perhaps one of our other readers will be able to supply an answer.

Bill Oehlke responds
July 31, 2009
I do not know that one. i do not think it is a Saturniidae species.
Bill Oehlke

Possible ID from Karl
August 14, 2009
Another possibility is that this impressive larva is a Carpenter Moth (Cossidae), some of which can be quite large.  Carpenter moths are stem and root borers, hence the common name for the group.  In most species the larvae live out their terms (up to 5 years) within their woody tunnels and galleries and therefore have no need for bright colors; most are white or cream colored. Some species, however, do change hosts occasionally when they run out of food, their host dies, or to burrow underground to pupate (could the latter behavior be what Sarah observed?). Such species can be brightly colored, often a warning to potential predators of toxicity or bad taste. A good example is the Goat Moth (Cossus cossus) of Europe and northern Africa, which bears considerable resemblance to the larva in Sarah’s photo. I was particularly struck by the similar markings on the pronotal shield, just behind the head. The Goat moth is one example of a Cossid moth larva that does leave its tree in the final stages of development to pupate underground. The Cossidae are well represented in South Africa, including at least two Cossus species (C. windhoekensis and C. terebroides) but descriptive information about larvae is difficult to find and I was not able to identify a potential candidate genus or species. Regards.

November 11, 2009
unknown caterpillar from eastern cape
On a 12/09/09 trip to an inselberg Touwsberg(S33 33 53 E21 03 03) in the w.cape I collected a similar caterpillar.It emerged on 06/11/2009) and was identified by Herman Staude as being probably Macrocassus toluminus of the family Cossoidea–stem borers which take years to complete their cycle.The most probable foodplant was Acacia karoo.Have pic of male that emerged.G
Geoff Wyatt

Location: Africa

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