Unknown caterpillar

Can anyone ID this caterpillar found on the Nuxia floribunda?

unknown caterpillar

unknown caterpillar

7 Responses to Unknown caterpillar

  1. Niall May 4, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    wow! never seen it before but it is a beautiful insect. great photo jenny.

  2. jeannine May 4, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    I have seen one similar, but have not identified it.
    it is an incredible creature. good luck finding out and please let me know if you do.

  3. Steve May 5, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    Hi Jeny, Jeannine, Niall,

    The caterpillar is an almost fully grown larvae of the Death Head Hawk Moth – Acherontia atropos.

    The feed on Potato family plants and Privet. This is the common yellow form of the caterpillar, and there is a darker brown form as well. The spike / tail is for decoration and is harmless – and is a feature of all worldwide Hawk Moths.

    The caterpillar will pupate just beneath the ground and will form a large pupae.

    When it emerges, the moth itself is absolutly magnificent.
    I have bred these magnificent moths in Europe where it is a rare migratory visitor. The adult moth has a short proboscic / tongue and feeeds by raiding native bee hives for their honey. If you hold the moth, it squeeks by forcing air through its short proboscis. This is the moth that was used in the cover to the famous movie, Silence of the Lambs.
    Drop me an email if you want to breed it through to a moth, it is quite simple to do.

    Good luck, and a magnificent creature you have found there 🙂

    Steve.

  4. Jenny E May 5, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Hi Steve, Many thanks for the info, I have been through many books and have not been able to Id it.
    My Brother farms with Bees so he will be interested, I wonder if they can infect the hives at all, we have a problem with a virus that affects the brood chamber in the hives but this fortunately has not reached our area in the East Cape

  5. Steve May 5, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Jenny,
    I’ve not heard of infections being spread by these moths. You do sometimes see mites on butterflies but I’ve never seen anything on these guys.
    Equally, I am not sure if they would be able to raid a commercial beehive or if they would rely on the wild hives. I;ve seen a clip of a similar moth in Madagascar raiding wild hives, where the honey is much more readily available than in a commercial hive.
    If you do keep it to hatch into the moth, they can be easily fed on sugar water instead of honey.
    Steve.

  6. Steve Kotze May 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Looks a lot like its wearing an official Bafana jersey!

  7. Wendy January 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I have found a few Deaths Head Hawkmoth Caterpillars on my potato bushes and am desperate to get rid of them as they are destroying my plants. What else will they eat as I don’t want to harm them.

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