One of our readers recently asked us about a caterpillar she discovered. The message she sent us is very informative and well-written so we will share it: “I live on the Bromberg Ridge just outside Pretoria, South Africa. I am on land which is very rocky and is nearly all indigenous vegetation with the exception of my garden around the house. From time to time I see these magnificent caterpillars slowly meandering around. They seem solitary, measure about 2 inches and are about the thickness of a mans thumb. They are absolutely beautiful, with all that hair, and I would like to know more about them and what they turn into. Perhaps a stunning butterfly? I do hope you can help!” Here is the beautiful photograph she sent us:
What a gorgeous specimen! It appears to have a black body covered in long, grey hairs. We agree with our reader that this is a caterpillar, but what kind of caterpillar is it? Although we write articles about caterpillars fairly often, we still sometimes have trouble identifying them. The trouble is due to the fact that some caterpillars of the same species look different, while two caterpillars of two different species might look identical. On top of that, there are over 20,000 species of caterpillars around the world! Luckily, additional information can be extremely useful when identifying these larvae. Our reader has provided a lot of useful information, like where she lives, the terrain, and the size of the caterpillar.
Sadly, even with all of this wonderful information and beautiful picture, we aren’t sure we can identify this caterpillar. While we are familiar with some caterpillars with white or grey hair, such as the Bombycomorpha larvae, their hair is spiky and sparse, not long and soft-looking like the caterpillar in this photograph. We do think the caterpillar shows some resemblance to the puss caterpillar, which is the larva of the flannel moth. There are over 10 species of puss caterpillars, but all of them occur in North America, so there probably wouldn’t be one crawling through our reader’s yard in South Africa. Unfortunately, we do not know what this specimen in.
To wrap up, one of our readers sent us a wonderful picture and a message about a caterpillar she found in her yard. Although she provided a lot of helpful information, we were sadly unable to identify this creature. Also, if our reader happens to know where it cocooned, or believes she has seen the adult into which it transformed, if she sends us another picture we may be able to help narrow it down. If any of our readers are familiar with this caterpillar we invite them to comment on the article!