Does the photograph above look like an eye to you?
Does this next photograph look like some creature staring at you? Perhaps it is the head of a snake…or some other creature that might startle a predator?
Behold the bearer of these amazing eyes and snake-head-like features. It is the caterpillar of the Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa). This is the brown form; there is a green form also. The big segment with the large eyes is actually the first segment of the abdomen. When alarmed it withdraws its thorax and head into folds of skin on the front of the first abdominal segment. Thus only the caterpillar’s abdomen shows in the photograph above.
We came across this caterpillar during a recent visit to the Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge near the Georgia coast just south of Savannah. The caterpillar was crossing one of the asphalt paths in the refuge. Joyce and I, with our friend Betty, were on our way to Goose Pond to see a Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) that had been reported to be there, and we did see it! It was a treat for Joyce and me, because Shelducks are not commonly seen in the Southeastern U.S. However, Betty, who is from England, had seen many Shelducks there, where they are quite common.
I don’t have a picture of my own showing the adult Tersa Sphinx moth. However, you can see good photographs of them at http://bugguide.net/node/view/419.