In Nature, Wildlife

Tropical Caterpillar

tropical-caterpillar

Meet the Frangipani (a.k.a. Plumeria) caterpillar, also known by very few as the Pseudosphinx tetrio. Found in tropical areas, they come out in droves and feast on the leaves of the Frangipani tree several times each year. Frangipani trees produce the fragrant flowers used to make leis in Hawaii.

The trees are draught tolerant and do well on St. John, with their flowers in shades of white, yellow, orange and pink.  Hundreds of tiny colorful caterpillars will take just days to devour every leaf on a full grown Frangipani tree.

While natural and fascinating, the reality of this caterpillar is pretty gross. It gorges itself on leaves and quickly expands to a size larger than a fat cigar.  Caterpillar poo droppings litter the ground below and eventually the bright long sloths flop to the ground. The caterpillars pupate in the leaf litter and eventually morph into drab looking large grey/brown hawk moths, with an intimidating wingspan of 6-7 inches. Duck!