Pink Caterpillar in Iquitos, Peru
Location: an hour outside Iquitos, Peru
December 20, 2010 3:15 pm
Hello! I just returned from the Amazon jungle where I saw stunningly beautiful butterflies and wonderfully huge spiders. This is the only fellow I could not identify.
Perhaps you could take a crack at what this guy is going to turn into?
Signature: Regards, Sarah

Dirphia avia Caterpillar from Peru

Hi Sarah,
We cannot tell you the name of the incredible looking caterpillar without doing extensive research.  We are going out on a limb and guessing that it is a Saturniid, and that it may be closely related to the North American Io Moth.  If that is the case, then we suspect this fierce looking South American Moth larva might also be a stinging species.  The sting from the Io Moth Caterpillar is reported to be extremely painful.  We will return later to commence the research.

We found a pink spiked caterpillar,
Automeris hamata, on the World’s Largest Saturniidae site.  Then we found a photo of Automeris hamata on, but it isn’t the pink color of yours.  We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can identify this awesome caterpillar

Update with Identification from Karl
December 21, 2010
Hi Daniel and Sarah:
It looks like Dirphia avia (Saturniidae: Hemileucinae), a genus that is closely related to Automeris.   White seems to be the most common color but the caterpillars do come in a wide variety of shades ranging from green to shocking pink. The markings down the middle of the back are distinctive regardless of color (the dash inside the semi-circle reminds me of a power button). The Area de Conservación Guanacaste (AGC) site has an excellent series of photos from Costa Rica. The species is native to Central and South America, and yes, they are a stinging species. Regards.

Thanks so much Karl.  You are in agreement with Bill Oehlke on this one.

Bill Oehlke Responds, the second time with an Identification
December 21, 2010
The larva looks familiar to me, but I am not sure that it is an Automeris species. It may well have been green a day or so before the image was taken as it may be prepupal.
If you can find the location in Peru, that will greatly reduce the amount of search time required.
Bill Oehlke

I think there is a good chance it is Dirphia avia. I am very interested in making contact with people who live in South American countires as they can be a great resource for finding larvae, rearing them to adulthood and then photographing adults. I can usually readily identify adults, and then larvae can also be identified. So far there are many species in South America whose larvae have not been identified. I just checked Lemaire’s Hemileucinae 2002, and he mentions Dirphia avia larvae turn from greenish white to purplish just prior to spinning.
The black markings are a pretty good match for Dirphia avia. Any chance there are also pictures of a laterl view, hostplant info, date?
All those things can be helpful.
Thanks for thinking of me.
Bill Oehlke

Thanks Bill,
We will forward your identification to Sarah and copy you in the hope that she will be able to provide you with assistance in the future.

Thanks everyone for helping me out on this one!
Unfortunately this fellow was not on a plant or really anywhere near one, he was headed up the wall of the lodge where we were staying, I assume to start spinning as he was quite fat.
I can give a very exacting location however, we were on Km 52.5 of the Iquitos-Nauta road, about a hours drive southeast of Iquitos, Peru. If you follow this link and scroll to the bottom, there is a map of the location:
I took the photo two weeks ago today.
The colors are pretty accurate in the photo, he was a bubblegum pink and about 5 inches long.
Let me know if I can help you in any other way.
regards and Happy Holidays!

Location: Peru

4 Responses to Pink Caterpillar from Peru: Stinging relative of the Io Moth

  1. Lisa Palm says:

    I also found this exact caterpillar today. I am located in Panama, in a neighborhood called Los Rios, just to the East of the south end of the canal. Thanks for IDing it, my 6 yr old daughter was curious.

  2. Lisa Palm says:

    I have this larva in a jar. As soon as I caught it, it started spinning. It is now encased in a cocoon on the side of the jar, which allows me to look into it. Unfortunately, I can’t get very good pictures. Of what’s going on inside, but I will take a picture of the adult as soon as it comes out.

  3. N. says:

    Good morning, I have the same caterpillar in my garden, I live in Costa Rica, in Guanacaste, in the mountain (700m) close to Tilaran. The color is correct on the picture mine is also bubble gum pink with spines. I have a picture if you need it.

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