Caterpillars of the
World - Peru
species unidentified )
Superfamily - ZYGAENOIDEA
Family - MEGALOPYGIDAE
Podalia sp, Pantiacolla, Rio Alto Madre de Dios, Peru ©
There are about 220
species in the family Megalopygidae, the vast majority of which are
found in the neotropics, with a few representatives in North America
Virtually all the
species have bizarre and often very beautiful caterpillars, but the
adult moths are by comparison extremely dull, generally being
blackish or ochreous in colour.
The illustrated caterpillar was
found on palm leaves in a glade in primary forest at 400m on the Rio
Madre de Dios in Peru.
extraordinary looking object illustrated above at first appears to
be a downy seed or nut, but is actually the fully grown caterpillar
of a Flannel moth. It's tempting to handle this furry creature but
to do so would be unwise. Hidden beneath the soft hairs are
poisonous spines which pierce the skin and can cause an extreme
allergic reaction resulting in rashes, blisters, inflammation, and
Megalopygidae are generally sombre in colour, although there are a
few exceptions with yellow wings or red abdomens. Their wings are
small in relation to their wide muscular thorax and long furry
abdomen. The antennae are pectinate and conspicuous - some genera
such as Norape and
Aithorape have orange or bright red
antennae contrasting with pure white wings.
adult illustrated below is a species from Brazil,
Megalopyge albicollis. The caterpillar
illustrated above may not necessarily be the same species.
Megalopyge albicollis, Rio Cristalino, Mato Grosso, Brazil