Few creatures in the Caribbean combine beauty with infamy quite like the frangipani worm.
Frangipani worm beauty
Known as the rasta caterpiller on certain islands and pseudosphinx tetrio in the scientific community, these worms are brilliantly colored — neon yellow stripes plus a fire-engine red head and legs contrast against their black bodies.
Besides being sharply dressed, they’re also huge. They can quickly reach six inches long and be as fat as my thumb.
Frangipani worm beast
It’s how they achieve this size that has earned the Frangipani worm such a terrible reputation all across the Caribbean. They eat… A LOT!
When you see one, you’ll likely see a whole bunch. Frangipani worms often travel in hordes, dramatically compounding the damage they can do. Believe it or not, these worms can strip an entire frangipani tree in a day or two!
Finally, since the plants they dine on are poisonous, they too are toxic. This keeps them safe from most predators with the flashy colors serving as a warning to other animals that they will likely make them sick.
Should you consider handling one… DON’T! They’re covered with fine needle-sharp hairs that will irritate your skin.
And, oh yeah, they bite! I mean, just look at the chompers on them.
Now, I know what some of you’re thinking:
Well, at least it probably turns into a beautiful butterfly, right?
These beastly bug larvae are destined to become big brown moths!
How big? We’re talking a six-inch wingspan! They’re also more than happy to fly in your face or hair as you walk around at night.
So, yeah, there’s not a lot to love about ol’ pseudosphinx tetrio… But they do make pretty caterpillars, so there’s that.
Have you seen these guys in your travels or in your yard? Let us know in the comments.