Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

caterpillar ID
August 28, 2009
Hello again! I found this amazing caterpillar climbing on a wall more than 100′ from any vegetation. It is ~3″ long, and as you can see will curl into a ball if disturbed. As I discovered, those spines are not for show! I bumped it and got a strong burning/stinging sensation at the site.
Edgewood New Mexico, 7000′ pinion forest

Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar
Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Mike,
As we have stated so many times in the past, we haven’t the time to even read all of the emails we receive, and we tend to open emails with subject lines that catch our attention.  We had been thinking that we haven’t posted any images of the fabulous Eyed Silkmoth caterpillars from the genus Automeris that have limited ranges in the Southwest.  This is the caterpillar of a Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth, Automeris zephyria, and it is only reported from the mountains of New Mexico.  The caterpillars feed on the leaves of willows.  You can see more images on BugGuide, but nothing as spectacular as the defensive ball your specimen has rolled into.  The spines of the Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar are mildly poisonous.  You need not fear for your health because of the sting, but the discomfort may last a few days.  We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he can add you sighting to the comprehensive data he is compiling.  We suspect he might also want to post your wonderful photos on his own website.

Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar:  Defensive Posture
Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar: Defensive Posture

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