Giant Caterpillar in the Night

Hypercompe scriboniaTraci spotted this big, burly, bristly 2.5″ caterpillar Saturday night. It was crossing the mowed median between Flatbush Ave. and the bicycle path at Floyd Bennett Field. As we approached, the ‘pillar rose up, its deep black eyes alert to hominid danger. Evidently, if we’d attempted to touch it, it would have rolled into a head-to-tail circle of spikes, but it isn’t otherwise toxic/allergic, as some of the hairy ones are. Hypercompe scriboniaThis is the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia). Some of the red intersegmental rings are visible here. I used a combination of the camera flash and Nate’s flashlight for these shots.

This critter, which over-wintered in this form (where, by Godwin?), was not heading towards Flatbush Ave (quite the opposite, in fact), a gauntlet of infernal combustion-driven death, so we just let it go on its way. It’s a nocturnal feeder, “broadly polyphagous” (hey, moi aussie!) according to David L. Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America. The leopard-patterned adult moth looks quite handsome. I’ve never seen one before. This was a first time for the caterpillar, too. The night is full of surprises.

1 Response to “Giant Caterpillar in the Night”

  1. 1 Elizabeth April 19, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I found some nice pictures of the adult on a blog – those red stripes carry over to the moth form.

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