A Caterpillar to Avoid

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I found a couple of these large caterpillars very near to each other. First the one above and then the one below. I believe they are a species of Automeris.

With those spines and colors, it’s pretty obvious they are to be avoided. Each one of those spines is like a little hypodermic needle bearing venom.

Here are some closeups.

Head

Spiny cluster

And here’s a particularly intimidating display.

Back off!

So what would mess with this spiny critter? I discovered while reviewing photos of the latter caterpillar that there was a small fly up to no good. Sorry for the photo quality. These are extreme crops.

Fly approaching

Fly feeding

I’m pretty sure that’s a biting midge in the family Ceratopogonidae. Some, like this one, will feed on the blood of other insects. I actually found a reference and image of one feeding on a related caterpillar.

Neotropical Ceratopogonidae (Diptera: Insecta) By Art Borkent, Gustavo R. Spinelli (Google Books link)

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3 Responses to A Caterpillar to Avoid

  1. Nice job on finding the fly and figuring it out. That closeup of the spiny cluster is gorgeous.

  2. John says:

    Automeris io doesn’t really bother me that much but I don’t think I’d like to try out this guy’s sting.

  3. Karen says:

    Holy cow, what a great series of photos! This made my morning. I love caterpillars. Thanks!

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