“I have never seen anything like it before,” says this reader of the worm-like creature she found in her kitchen one morning. The creature appears to have a segmented body, pink in color with small black dots, and has what appears to be a large, black and yellow eye spot at one end of its body.
Our reader, who is based in Denver CO, is curious about the creature in her kitchen, the likes of which she has never seen “in [her] house or out in nature”, and she wonders if we have any information on the critter. Luckily for our reader, we do! This here is a caterpillar of the Pandora sphinx moth. The Pandora sphinx moth is a type of hawk moth, which are known for their variety of body shapes and colors, as well as their rapid wing beat. The Pandora sphinx moth, when fully grown, is a dark green in color, and has a wing span of up to 4.5-inches, making this moth a rather large one. In fact, from a distance, Pandora sphinx moths (as well as other, similarly sized species of hawk moths) have been mistaken for small birds, which is quite amazing (or terrifying, depending on who you ask).
Pandora sphinx moths are nocturnal and have one year lifespans. Eggs are laid one-at-a-time, so it is possible the mother moth laid one egg inside our reader’s home one night which spawned this caterpillar (given that our reader has not found more of these caterpillars). What is more likely is that the caterpillar wandered in through an open door or window, or was brought in by or on something from our reader’s yard (provided she has one). This is because, not only are sphinx moth caterpillars considered garden pests, eating away at grapes and other vines, but this caterpillar in particular is likely nearing pupation. When young, Pandora sphinx moth caterpillars are actually green in color, but according to the University of Wisconsin’s College of Letters & Science page on Pandora sphinx moths, they change color when nearing pupation, and can become either brown, black, pink or orange. This would also make sense as Pandora sphinx moth caterpillars pupate throughout all of winter before finishing metamorphosis in the spring and emerging as fully grown moths.
Before we conclude our article on this fascinating species of moth, we want to add a fun fact about the Pandora sphinx moth caterpillar’s characteristic eye spot. This is, in fact, not an eye at all, but merely a mark ‘left over’ from the horn that is there at the early stages of the caterpillar’s lifespan. Just as the horn serves as a warning to predators, the eye spot also functions to stave off unwanted attention. What’s more, the head of the caterpillar is actually at the other end of its body! When threatened, the caterpillar is able to tuck away its head into the folds of its skin, which is what it seems to be doing in our reader’s photograph, hence the cut-off appearance of that end of its body.
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To conclude, the creature our reader found in her kitchen is a Pandora sphinx moth caterpillar. They are pests of the garden, so we recommend that our reader check her yard for more of these (if this is relevant to our reader, that is). That being said, they are not harmful to humans and will not wreak any havoc inside the home. We recommend that our reader move the caterpillar outside (though she seems to have already done) and call it a day! If our reader, or any of our other readers for that matter, have any more questions on the Pandora sphinx moth caterpillar, she is welcome to share them in the comments section below.