Two Achemon Sphinx Caterpillars and a Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

caterpillar ID
Location: Jemez Springs NM; Near Los Alamos New Mexico
September 3, 2011 5:53 pm
Hey, we found three caterpillars we haven’t seen before. 2 we found on our homeschool fieldtrip to the Jemez mountains NM, right by the hotsprings near Jemez Springs, 36 Miles west of Los Alamos. The green one is 3+ inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. It’s green with a ”spraypaintish looking”, reddish spot on top from head to tail.It has one yellow and black ”eye” on the rear end. White parallel streaks on the side.
We call the other one a ”snowflake caterpillar” because it’s spiky hair has a delicate snowflake like top. The two spikes in the front are a little bit higher then the rest. My kids say it stings.
The orange one is from our own frontyard in Taos NM. We never saw one like it before. It has a ”stinger” in the front, and two painted on eyes. It has white slashes on the side.
What are they???
Jenny, River (9), and Jordan (4)
ShineOnBeyond – homeschool
Signature: ShineOnBeyond Homeschool

Pre-pupal Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Jenny, River, Jordan and the rest of the ShineOnBeyond Homeschool students,
Two of your caterpillars are the same species.   The green caterpillar is a pre-pupal Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar.  See this image on BugGuide for comparison.  There are several different color variations on this species, and the pink blush at the top of the green caterpillar is, we believe, an indication that the caterpillar is preparing to pupate.  Many species change color just prior to pupation.  The orange caterpillar is an earlier instar or stage of the same species, the Achemon Sphinx.  See this image on BugGuide for comparison.  When the caterpillar molts between the fourth and fifth or final instar, the caudal horn is lost, leaving a caudal bump that resembles an eye.

Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar (third or fourth instar)

The remaining caterpillar is one of the Giant Silkmoths in the genus Automeris, and we believe it is the Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth, Automeris zephyria.  We believe this is also an earlier instar, and most images online of the caterpillar of the Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth are of the fifth and final instar.  This BugGuide image shows several caterpillars with the markings represented on your individual.  We found a very close visual match on the members only World’s Largest Saturniidae website, but nonmembers cannot view the image.

Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Bug guy,
Thanks so much – you have just made it to the top of our list of favorite resources. Keep up the amazing work, you rock!!!!


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