Three palm flower caterpillars were recently found in a bedroom in this reader’s house in Scottsdale, Arizona. Before that, our reader’s son spotted a “‘very large’ moth,” and our reader asks if these caterpillars will get into her clothes.
Firstly, for those of our readers who do not know what creature our reader is talking about, the palm flower caterpillar is the larval stage of a palm flower moth, which is often found in the desert regions of North America and is named after the type of tree they inhabit and feed on, the palm tree. Eggs are laid by or on the tree, larvae feed on the flowers and then eventually pupate at the base of the tree! Secondly, to answer our reader’s question, these caterpillars will not get into her clothes. Palm flower caterpillars are not clothes moths (the umbrella term used to describe those species of moths whose larvae feed on textile materials), and so our reader needs not worry about the clothes in her home, and will not need to “inventory” them as she suggested. The worst a palm flower caterpillar can do to one’s home is chew through a bit of carpet in preparation for pupation if the caterpillar figures it will not be able to make it back to the palm tree. So, we advise that our reader check her carpets for other larvae. Still, she needs not worry about these caterpillars infesting her home and taking over.
Likewise, our reader stated that, as she understood from our “great site” (thank you very much), she “should probably check cracks in the walls and baseboards”, and while this is generally a good idea, as cracks in walling and flooring can be entry points for all kinds of critters, it is not that likely that palm flower caterpillars got in this way, given their large size. Additionally, insects and the like are more prone to wedging their way through walls and floors when they are infesting the space, wanting to remain hidden as they do so. Palm flower caterpillars do not infest homes because there is nothing inside a household that a palm flower caterpillar would be attracted to as a food source. They pretty much stick to their primary source of food and thus have no reason to infest an urban environment. What is more likely is that the palm flower caterpillars were blown off a palm tree by strong winds, and then made their way into the home via a torn window screen or an open door to seek shelter. This is actually quite a common occurrence for palm flower caterpillars, and so simply returning them to a palm tree is the best way of getting them out of one’s home.
To conclude, the three worms our reader found in her home are indeed palm flower caterpillars, as our reader thought, but they are no threat to the state of her clothes, nor are they a threat to her family’s health. At most, they are a minor threat to one small part of a carpet, but if our reader takes out the caterpillars immediately and puts them back on a palm tree, they will not have time, nor reason to come back to the home and pupate in the carpet. We hope this article was of help to our reader and that it put her mind at ease.