Lappet Moth Caterpillar from Tanzania

Tanzanian Uber Caterpillar
Location: Tanzania, East Africa
December 9, 2010 10:34 pm
In 2008, I walked across Tanzania. Whilst there I ran into all sorts of fun bugs -a stickbug as long as my forearm, mantids and locusts, and even a horde of hungry siafu that overran our camp in the middle of the night (not to mention ants that can jump). After all the adventure, I took a few days on the beach, whereupon I ran into this beastie. He was big (as long as my hand), bright, beautiful and, years later, I still have no clue what he was. Help?
Signature: Corvus

Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Corvus,
This is just about the most unusual Caterpillar photo we have ever received.  We are going to try to search the World’s Largest Saturniidae Website, though we are not even certain that it is the caterpillar of a Saturniid Moth.  We will also try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he recognizes your caterpillar.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide some assistance.    Often knowing the food plant can be of some assistance.  Many tropical insects, especially in their earlier stages, are not well documented.  Even if we are not able to eventually provide you with an identification, we are thrilled to be able to post your incredible photos.

Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any better picture of the tree it was on- all I can tell you, after a few years, was that said tree didn’t have any problem growing in sand maybe ten feet from the beach.  It was also in a relatively populated area – less than 10km south of Dar es Saalam which has been an active port city since the 1800s- so hopefully someone has managed to document this particular insect by now.
Funny enough, the beach it was by is named Kipepeo, which is Swahili for “Butterfly”.
I tried to do some googling on my own, but (obviously) no luck.  Hopefully your resources can turn up an answer! Thank you.

Hi again Corvus,
We are blown away by your website and we wonder if you are familiar with Lisa Anne Auerbach’s Steal This Sweater website.  What’s That Bug began its life as a column on Lisa Anne’s now defunct American Homebody website and we have a long history of artistic collaboration together.

Update on Food Plant:  SeaGrape
Unknown Caterpillar from Tanzania Comment
December 13, 2010 1:21 am
If it might be of help in making an ID, I believe the tree this caterpillar was on, is possibly Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera), native to Florida and tropical America. I lived on Hawaii for some years, where it is a popular, introduced landscaping/parking lot plant, particularly thriving in seaside locations; apparently this is true in other warm locales, as well.
Signature: Dee Warnock

Update:  August 3, 3015
We just received a comment that this appears to be a Lappet Moth Caterpillar in the family Lasiocampidae, and the link provided indicates that is a very likely possibility, prompting us to remove its unidentified status.

3 thoughts on “Lappet Moth Caterpillar from Tanzania”

  1. I’m not (yet^^) an expert but, considering its size, i suggest its Lasiocampidae. There are some genus, like Trabala and Chrysopsyche, which are present in Tanzania and share some similarities with this specimen. If you search on Google Images “caterpillar tanzania” you’ll find other points of comparison (like this one :[email protected]/15478136906 ) with caterpillar of, obviously, a very closely related species or the same species at an earlier stage.


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