Giant Silkworm from Mexico: Leucanella species

Subject: black caterpillar with yellow spines
Location: Chiapas, Mexico
October 31, 2012 8:42 am
This caterpillar was found in the highland region of Chiapas, Mexico by a worker who was clearing out a field outside of a rural clinic where I was working. I was told four different names for it, some in the local Mayan language: ch’ix tul, xaktaj, xaxaltojo, and ramudo. I was told it turns into a large yellow moth and that the caterpillar is very poisonous. It was pretty large – maybe 10 cm. Thanks!!
Signature: Linda

Leucanella species Caterpillar

Dear Linda,
We are rushing to post your photo, and we cannot do the research at this moment.  We can tell you that this is a Caterpillar from the genus
Automeris, a large group of Giant Silkmoths.  We can also tell you that this is a stinging caterpillar, so keep away from the spines.  We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response as he might be able to provide the species for us both.  Should Bill request permission to reproduce your photo on his website, we hope you will comply.

Dear Daniel,
Thanks so much for your quick response. This is very helpful. Yes, you
have permission to repost the photo. I’ll look forward to your
response whenever you have the time. Thank you so much –
this is a great website and a great service!

Hi Linda,
We were wrong about the genus.  We found a photo on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website that indicates these caterpillars are probably
Leucanella leucane or possibly Leucanella saturata.  Here are photos of Leucanella leucane from Masterfile and another from  We hope Bill Oehlke can verify our identification.

Dear Daniel,
Looks just like Leucanella saturata! Thanks so much for this, and
thanks again for your website!

6 thoughts on “Giant Silkworm from Mexico: Leucanella species”

  1. If the caterpillar is almost exactly the same but with green instead of yellow spikes, is it likely the same or different species? I would send a pic if you told me how 🙂 The caterpillar was observed in Queretaro, Mexico, not too far from the location in thr above map. Thanks!

  2. I found one of these on the sidewalk today here in Mexico City. Polanco to be specific.
    Glad I used a stick for it to grab onto for me to move it to a tree so that it would not get stepped on. I took some pics and a video if interested.

  3. My dog just found one of these in our yard here in Mexico. She didn’t eat it, but she had it in her mouth and definitely killed the caterpillar. How poisonous is this? Should I take her to the vet?

    • We are not qualified to provide veterinary advice, but if your dog is acting unusual, you should probably seek attention soon.


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