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

Pandora Pine Moth Caterpillar

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.

Location: California

2 Responses to Pandora Pine Moth Caterpillar

  1. Dave says:

    The consumption of these caterpillars [or actually, of the pupae they become] is very well documented and probably continues in small ways even today. A few years ago I spoke with a Native American man who told me that a small group of people call each other to share the news that it’s time to go get them.

    The food is called “piaggi,” though other spelling variants are found. I haven’t tried it yet.

    SmallStock Food Strategies

    • bugman says:

      Thanks Dave,
      This is now tagged edible and I had totally forgotten about it, though I have read about Piaggi in the past.

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