Big Headed Caterpillar — Real or Hoaxed?

Take a look at this photo. I thought it looked like something right out of a Disney Pixar movie or something. Why would a caterpillar need a head that large? (Hey, I bet it would work great as a fish lure!!)

Anyway, despite my misgivings, it turns out this animal is real! It’s called a “Big Headed Caterpillar of Phyllodes imperialis”.

I’m afraid to ask what that is going to grow into!

Turns out Phyllodes imperialis is a group of fruit sucking moths, and this is one of them in its caterpillar stage. Native to Australia (northern Queensland), Papua New Guinea,  and the Solomon Islands, these feisty bugs present a formidable demeanor when bothered by animals hunting for food. It draws itself up and stretches its skin until it looks like a large animal with two blue-black eyes and several rows of teeth between them. Here’s a closer shot of that:

When the time comes, this caterpillar spins itself into a cocoon, and undergoes its metamorphosis into the Fruit Sucking Moth it’s destined to be.

Not much is known about these caterpillars/moths as they live in dense rainforests in the areas mentioned and haven’t been studied to the extent that scientists would like. Here is a photo the adult moth (left):

The photo to the right shows the adult with closed wings, trying to blend into the tree canopy and avoid predators.

Once again nature has provided us with a bizarre and spectacular looking animal, which isn’t well known or studied yet.  Findings like these keep reminding me that there is hope that we’ll find the larger, cryptid animals that we love to talk about and search for!

Keep your cameras handy! Til the next time!

3 comments

  1. I have seen a similar one, in Ste-Anne de la Pérade, (very near St-Lawrence Seaway) Quebec, Canada. It is not as spectacular as the one you show, but we were astonished to see this big very bizarre insect, between 2 planks under the outdoor table. We were afraid it might get squeeze under our feet, so I tried to move it out with a little stick, but it held so hard to the wood plank that I stopped trying to move it out. I took two pictures of it.

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