Cecrops Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

Subject: Fancy caterpillar
Location: Prescott, Arizona
September 22, 2013 8:58 pm
Hi there – a friend of mine took this photo on 9/20/13 at the Highlands Center for Natural History located in the Central Highlands of Arizona. She said it was on a small Manzanita bush. It’s the most wonderful-looking bug I’ve ever seen, so we’re all trying to help her identify it.
Thanks a lot!
Signature: Maurine Haeberlin

Cecrops Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar
Cecrops Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

Hi Maurine,
This is the caterpillar of the Cecrops Eyed Silkmoth,
Automeris cecrops pamina, and it has a very limited range.  According to BugGuide it is found in:  “western New Mexico (west of the Rio Grande) into eastern Arizona and south into northern Sonora.  Occurance in the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico is not documented in literature, but the subspecies is common there.”  BugGuide does not list manzanita as a food plant, but oak and willow are included in the list of plants caterpillars feed upon.  The World’s Largest Saturniidae website doesn’t list manzanita either, but does include mimosa, ceonothus and mountain mahogany as well as oak.  BugGuide also provides this precaution:  “As is true of most species in the Hemileucinae, the caterpillars of this species can produce a Nettle-like sting from their spines. Some people show little or no reaction, while others may develop an itchy rash or welts that last for up to a few days, especially on areas of more tender skin. These caterpillars are not considered dangerous, but should be handled with care.” 

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