A very helpful reader wrote to us in reference to an article we published last year. It was an article about what a curious reader thought was a worm, but was in fact probably a caterpillar based on the physical description we were sent. The caterpillar was long, thick, and spiky. It was also primarily black, although the caterpillar had white dashes on its body and an orange stripe down its back. The reader who more recently wrote to us sent us a picture of what seems like the same caterpillar. We didn’t have a picture of the spiky caterpillar in the old article, so the reader sent us one. Thanks!
For the sake of reference, you can check out the old article here:
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And here is a picture of the caterpillar that may be described in this article:
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The reader who sent us this picture is from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which is also the location of the reader who sent us the original question. According to the reader who sent us this photo, this caterpillar has been causing some problems. Over 100 of these caterpillars were discovered on a tree whose leaves have been destroyed by this creature.
Despite this additional information and the picture, and despite the considerable amount of time we spent trying to once again figure out what kind of caterpillar this is, we are simply stumped. We are able to find caterpillars that kind of look like the one above – like, for instance, the larval form of the Nyctemera annulata (more commonly called the “Magpie Moth”), which is indeed a spiky, black caterpillar with orange stripes, but, as it turns out, it is only found in New Zealand and Australia – but we have found no satisfying matches. This is frustrating, but not entirely unexpected: as we have pointed out before, there are many tens of thousands of different kinds of caterpillars, so it is extremely hard to accurately identify any given caterpillar we come across.
However, knowledge is often best discovered by groups, so if any reader has any information about this caterpillar, please post a comment below for others to see. We can’t always answer our readers’ questions (caterpillars are always particularly difficult), but we are at least able to provide a platform for questions to be asked and answered by other readers.