I was wandering around the hotel grounds in Saint’Anne, Martinique, when my gaze was captured by a humungous striped creature hanging in an elegant arc in a bush next to me. I froze: if there’s something I don’t like, it’s larvae. And this was one huge larva. Then I focused behind it… there were more of them. A shiver ran down my spine. The instinct in me told me to walk away; the naturalist in me took my body to my room, grabbed my camera and ran back.
Lucky I did so in good time, too, because when I got back a very ferocious looking gardener was standing in front of the frangipani bush, donning a helmet, gas mask and gloves and ready (he then told me) to gas the little creatures to a better life.
Later I checked and no, the species is not at risk and yes, it’s normal for hotels to kill them (most guests feel differently than the naturalist side of me). They’re the lovely little babies (all adjectives are used loosely here) of the fairly anonymous (and large, very, very large) sphinx moth. They have urticating hairs, are quite unappetising, if large velvety caterpillars are your cup of tea, and “if caught, tend to bite”. Bite. Horrific (at least for me) but a pleasure to photograph.