A nest of giant green caterpillars in Montezuma

A huge nest of caterpillars in Montezuma. These were up to six inches long!

Costa Rica’s amazing variety of butterflies and moths of course guarantees us a similar cornucopia of caterpillars – the larval stage of these beautiful insects.

Beautiul green caterpillar with fractal spikes

Spikey caterpillar… looks like it might sting but I didn’t want to find out.

Warning! Many caterpillars can sting you. Some are like jellyfish in that the slightest touch on the fuzzy hairs causes a sting. My ex-wife Karen touched a small fuzzy one with her foot by accident and said it felt like an ant or bee sting. Other types have a barbed stinger that will harpoon your tender flesh if you bother it. So, treat these amazing bugs with respect.

Shown here is just a tiny sampling of the species. Please send us photos of others if you have them. And if any bugologists out there are reading this, then feel free to tell us what species these caterpillars belong to, and we’ll add that info to the site.

One of the amazing things about caterpillars is that many have a particular host plant, or perhaps 2-3 plants that they will eat. Without that plant, they’ll all die off. For example, the famous Blue Morfo loves to eat the leaves of the Cocobolo tree. And, as ravenous as they are as caterpillars, some of the butterflies they turn into don’t eat at all. They don’t even have a mouth! They just fly around for a while to mate and then die after depositing their eggs.

Montezuma Giant Green Caterpillar Montezuma Giant Green Group Fuzzy Brown Caterpillar from Delicias
Giant green caterpillar found in Montezuma jungle. Cluster of giant green caterpillars in Montezuma. Fuzzy brown caterpillar found in Delicias, near Montezuma. This was 4cm long

Montezuma Fuzzy Green Caterpillar Small 'old man' caterpillar Crazy Horny Caterpillar
Amazing fuzzy green caterpillar from Delicias – incredibly well camoflaged for hiding in the jungle. Small ‘old man’ caterpillar from Montezuma. This is the type that stung Karen’s foot. Photo by Tania Johanning V. – Bizzarre horned caterpillar found in Delicias. It looks much like a weird slug, but it seemed to be a type of caterpillar.

Costa Rican Rubber Caterpillar Sphinx Moth Caterpillar Sphinx Moth Caterpillar Closeup
Strange spikey caterpillar that looked like it was made from rubber. Giant red, orange, yellow and black “Frangipani Sphinx Moth” caterpillars. They have a thin black whip-like tail that flicks back and forth as they eat. Their favorite food is flora blanca (frangipani) leaves. This one doesn’t sting, and I was told that when fully grown, can be up to 10 inches long! Close up. It may not bite or sting, but if you try to pick it up, it will attempt to pinch you with its hind legs, and it can hurt a little if it gets you.
Costa Rican Giant Caterpillar Color-changing caterpillars Cactus caterpillar
Humungous brown caterpillar that we found crawling across our deck. It looked very much like the black and yellow one above, and we gave it to the Mariposarium in Montezuma. Hopefully it will hatch into a moth and we’ll see what it looks like. These caterpillars were changing color as they got bigger and older. Some of them were even half red and half green! Another spikey caterpillar that looked like a cactus. Photo by Adam.
Freshly hatched! Giant purple caterpillar with multiple antennae
This is a freshly hatched moth or butterfly that wriggled out of its silky covering. However, instead of unfolding into a beautiful flying creature, it apparently chooses to remain a shiny maggot for some time. This monstrous purple caterpillar was among the largest I’ve seen. It was found on guava tree leaves.

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