This large and colorful caterpillar becomess a moth of the Saturniidae family. It is found from Mexico to Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Its hairs can cause painful skin eruption (dermatitis) when handled. IO larvae possess many venomous spines (urticarial hairs) on their body and must be handled with care
Did some research and found that this is a Luna Moth caterpillar which will sting you if you touch it! Once the caterpillar turns into a moth it only lives for about a week. Long enough to mate and lay eggs. The moth is one of the largest in North America. The moths are nocturnal, thus the nomenclature “luna”.
In Greek Mythology, Polyphemus is a cyclops that attacks Odysseus and devours some of his men. The Polyphemus Moth is given its name because of large eyespots on its hind wings reminiscent of a cylcops. Nothing else about the moth resembles Polyphemus or a cyclops.
Caterpillars of the Polyphemus moth feed on the leaves of trees including birch and willow. The caterpillars consume a large amount of foliage, but the density of caterpillars is so low they do not cause significant harm to the trees. The adults do not feed.
The moth in the photo below is a female with a thread-like antenna. The males have antennae that are highly branched to detect the pheromone odors released by the female moths. Polyphemus moths may become disoriented by lights at night. This one was attracted to lights as part of an insect collecting project.
Prometheus moths are among the largest Lepidoptera in North America. This one had a wingspan of about 6 inches. They are truly awesome to behold.
The Saturniidae, commonly known as saturniids, are among the largest and most spectacular of the moths. They form a family of Lepidoptera, with an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 described species worldwide. The Saturniidae include such Lepidoptera as the giant silkmoths, royal moths and emperor moths. The majority of saturniid species occur in wooded tropical or subtropical regions, with the greatest diversity in the New World Tropics and Mexico, though they are found all over the world.