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Peekaboo False Eyes of a Hawkmoth Caterpillar

on
18 February 2015

Hawkmoth (Sphingidae) larvae, or caterpillars, can grow to relatively large sizes. Some of them may sport two prominent spots above their heads which appear to mimic eyes. Some may be thought to be mimicking snakes with the eyes. Perhaps the reason could straight-forward, to look menacing. This post is about the green pergesa hawkmoth larva, which doesn’t always show the false eyes.

    Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8132
  1. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Looks like a normal looking caterpillar at rest, with a cute little tail or horn.

  2. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8133
  3. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Dorsal view looks normal too. Are those two rings near the head.. the false eyes?

  4. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8124
  5. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    The head and actual eyes are actually way ahead in front, while attention is diverted to the false eyes.

  6. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8093
  7. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Taking a closer look.

  8. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8119
  9. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Maximum magnification on the false eye. Yep, simple patterned textures, not real eyes!

  10. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8129
  11. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Did it just WAKE UP?? The false eyes appear to be “opening”…

  12. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8101_640
  13. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Peekaboo! It’s really happening… the eyes were really growing bigger each time I approached. Seems like the caterpillar expands the folds to reveal more of the false eyes to make it look like it has woken up!

  14. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8108
  15. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Looks like it is wide awake now, fully expanding the false eyes.

  16. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8115
  17. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    However, it was also quick to calm down and the eyes were soon back to the “resting state”.

  18. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8127
  19. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Cool as a cucumber.

  20. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus) - DSC_8131
  21. Green pergesa hawkmoth (Pergesa acteus)

    Left it alone and said goodbye after it decided to go to sleep again.

  22. Not all hawkmoth caterpillars have false eyes. Please share in the comments below if you have encountered similar false-eyed caterpillars!

The complete album for this trip can be viewed here.

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NICKY BAY
Singapore

Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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