Subject: Huge Caterpillar
Location: Haifa, northern coast of Israel
April 12, 2013 4:39 am
I took this photo on 9th April, 2013 in Haifa, Israel in a residential area, just above sea level. It appears to be a caterpillar about six inches (15cm) long and an inch (3cm) wide. It’s lower half and head is an unpleasant shade of yellow, upper half is black, or near black with lots of white dots around the sides. Near the head are two spots which I would describe as looking like the eyes of a peacock tail (blue, greenish, with a black centre.
About 15 years ago I saw something very similar, about a mile away from where this picture was taken, only that caterpillar was much more colourful – same shade of yellow, black stripe down its back, but about five or six large ’peacock eye’ spots along its back. Also six inches long and an inch wide. I have never seen any others aside from these two, and when I asked the neighbours about it, they’d never seen one either. I sent a description of the first one I saw to several insect experts in various parts of the world, no one was able to identify it.
If it is a caterpillar, I’m wondering what sort of enormous, possibly man-eating butterfly it morphs into!
Signature: Kim Levy
This is the caterpillar of the Oleander Hawkmoth, Deilephila nerii or Daphnis nerii, and it can be found in many warmer climates where oleander is grown. The adult Oleander Hawkmoth is a lovely green and pink moth. Caterpillars often change color and leave the plants they were feeding upon when they are nearing the time to pupate. You can learn more on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.
Many thanks for your very speedy reply! I had no idea what Oleander is but when I checked the web page you sent I recognised it. Locally it’s known as cHarduf, the most common shrub in the country, it grows EVERYWHERE!
I was surprised you identified my caterpillar so quickly when experts failed to ID the description of the first one I saw, but to be fair it was a bit different, and I see no others like it on the link you sent, though it’s clearly the same type. I’ve only seen two of these caterpillars in the 25 years I’ve lived here, and what a shame I’ve never seen the moth because it’s absolutely beautiful!