Big caterpillar in Cali
Location: South Lake Tahoe, Ca.
July 17, 2011 11:10 pm
We camped In South Lake Tahoe the week of July 9 – 16. Once we got there my daughter
instantly found one of these large caterpillars. Over the next couple of days, we found
them everywhere. We asked the camp host what they were, but she didn’t know. She said in
the twenty years she had been there, that was the first time she saw them.
They average about 3 1/2 inches in length, and about 1/2 to 5/8 inch in diameter. Every
time we found one they were walking on the ground, so we couldn’t tell what they were
eating. By the end of the week, we would only see one or two.
Signature: Eric and Talia, Bughunters
Dear Eric and Talia,
We identified your caterpillar as Coloradia pandora pandora, the Pandora Pine Moth according to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, which states: “Females deposit eggs in groups on pine needles or on the tree trunk; eggs hatch within 3-7 weeks. Young caterpillars are gregarious, with 3-5 caterpillars feeding together on the same pine needle. Older caterpillars feed alone. Two years are required to complete development. Second- or third-stage caterpillars overwinter the first year in tight clusters, resume feeding in the spring, pupate in June or July, and spend the second winter in underground pupation chambers lined with silk and plant litter. Some can remain in the pupal stage for up to 5 years before emerging as adults.” Sadly, there is not a photo of the caterpillar on that website. Luckily BugGuide has a photo that matches.