“I read an article about trying to identify a pink worm in the bedroom, but it was difficult to do so without seeing the legs”, writes this reader in his submission regarding the pink critter pictured below. “I found a similar worm on my bed and wanted to share the video I took. I live in Toledo, Ohio. Thank you!” Based on the great photo he sent in, we have identified this is an erythrina stem borer caterpillar. These creatures are unfortunately pests of coral trees, which they are named after. They can be found all over the Americas where there are coral trees, from South America and the Caribbean, to California and Florida. Similar species have also been found in Asia and Africa, though they are not the same species.
Erythrina stem borers are considered such a dangerous pest because they can take down entire trees, which is pretty rare for any species of caterpillar. Most species of caterpillars are defoliators, meaning they will eat the leaves of their host plants, but typically that will not damage the overall health of the plant. On the other hand, erythrina stem borers will tunnel through the stems of plants, eat off the ends of branches and prevent leaf-growth to begin with, and even destroy seeds. A lot of the coral trees they infest are not just endemic species that are important to the landscape of the regions they grow in, but they also serve important medicinal and agricultural purposes. It has become such a problem that cultivating certain species of corral trees is impossible where there are populations of erythrina stem borers. On top of that, in certain regions another pest of corral trees has shown up, namely the erythrina leaf roller, which, together with the stem borer, will take down corral trees even faster.
Unfortunately, infestations of them are difficult to control, and not enough is known about them to develop measures of control and elimination. So, if our reader has any corral trees in his yard, he might have to come to terms with the fact that the tree only has so many years left to live. Raking leaf litter away from the tree can slow down the spread, as the stem borers pupae in piles of fallen leaves, but all attempts at eliminating stem borer populations so far have been unsuccessful. Of course, our reader found this critter in his bed, so it was likely that it entered his home accidentally: maybe it fell onto him from a tree or came in on his shoes.
Now, this is a tricky situation so far as recommending what he should do with the caterpillar. On one hand, these caterpillars are not dangerous to humans or pets, and we seldom recommend killing creatures that are harmless. On the other hand, they are so incredibly destructive to corral trees that, if this caterpillar is left alive and moved outside, it could develop into a moth and populate the corral trees with even more caterpillars, thus leading to more corral trees dying. We leave the decision up to our reader on this one: he should do what he feels most comfortable with.
In conclusion, the pink worm our reader found on his bed looks like an erythrina stem borer. Now, there are other caterpillar species that are pink, but all the ones that come to mind are actually pests that are harmful to trees (like the palm flower caterpillar), so our advice would still stand. We hope this helps, and we wish our reader the very best!
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