Unusual specimen spotted in Pelican, with appropriate fall, Halloween color scheme

This Spurge Hawk Moth Caterpillar was found in Pelican Rapids.

About two weeks ago, Pelican Rapids photographer Roland “Jordy” Jordahl found this autumn-Halloween colored-caterpillar crawling across his driveway east of Pelican Rapids. “It was at least 3” long, and very colorful. This is the first time I’ve seen a caterpillar like this,” said Jordahl. It appears to be a leafy spurge hawk moth caterpillar.

This may have been a more interesting find than Jordy even realized. This species was purposefully introduced into Colorado, and eventually some other western states and Canada for the control of leafy spurge, an invasive weed.

The spurge hawk moth is a European species that feeds on the leaves of leafy spurge, reducing the growth of the plant–which is also an invasive species from Europe. The moth was the first biological control agent to be released for the control of the weed, but it turned out to not be  nearly as effective as other beetle species released in later years.

Spurge Hawk Moth

Also pictured here, an internet image of the moth that is transformed from the caterpillar.

Based on internet searches, sightings of the caterpillar and moth appear to be somewhat uncommon in Minnesota. But with its unusual orange and black color pattern, it seems oddly appropriate that a specimen was spotted during autumn color season–with Pelican’s Oktoberfest  approaching Oct. 11-15; and Halloween around the corner.