“The most extraordinary instance of imitation I ever met with was that of a very large Caterpillar, which ... startled me by its resemblance to a small Snake... [The caterpillar] had on each side a large black pupillated spot, which resembled the eye of the reptile”
- H.W. Bates, 1862

Many animals have conspicuous eye-like spots on their body. In most animals these ‘eyespots’ are thought to intimidate predators from attacking or deflect the predator strikes away from vulnerable body parts. That ‘eyespots’ could help prey by resembling the eyes of a predator’s own enemies is thought to be particularly true for butterfly and moth caterpillars. Caterpillars with eyespots are often cited to be snake mimics that startle attacking birds which mistake them for dangerous snakes. Despite widespread acceptance, this phenomena is surprisingly understudied. 

My name is Tom, and I recently completed my PhD at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada where I examined this phenomenon in depth. I will continue posting updates about my ongoing research examining the ecology and evolution of caterpillar eyespots.


  1. Hi Tom,

    My name is Jody Aston. Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed looking at your website, and used some of your information for a story on our online newspaper in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. I gave the link to your website and credit at the bottom of the article.

    We found an interesting specimen--could not ID the species, but I am interested in entomology and hope to encourage other ex-pats in the area to appreciated the natural wonders around us. Here is a link to the article--I have several photographs that may interest you. Although I put a copyright watermark on them, you are welcome to use them, if you want.

    Here is the link to the article:

    Good luck with your research!

  2. Hi Jody,

    Thanks for the kind words about my website, and for linking it to your article. I think your caterpillar is Madoryx plutonius from the family Sphingidae. I would love to hear more about you're encounter with that caterpillar and any others you find that have eyespots.

    Kind regards,