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Caterpillar migration takes over some Valley neighborhoods

Posted at 3:58 PM, Aug 26, 2021

PHOENIX — Droves of caterpillars have been popping up around the Valley the past couple of days.

At times, hundreds of them will make their way onto the streets or sidewalks in Phoenix area neighborhoods. An expert with the Butterfly Wonderland, a local conservatory, told ABC15 the bugs are looking for their new home.

"For whatever reason, they don’t like doing that on the mountain," said entomologist Derek Kellogg.

"That’s when they flood out of the mountains and into these people's neighborhoods," he added.

Sarah Nelson lives in north Phoenix and does not like the caterpillars.

“My initial reaction is, here they come again," said Nelson. "Every couple of years they come down the hill and they’re just creatures I don’t like seeing in the area."

Her neighbor, Mathew Tyo, told ABC15 he was trying to keep them out of his garden.

"A bunch of them were coming out from underneath the rock," he said. "Since then, we’ve been trying to clean them up and keep them out of the backyard."

Despite common misconception, these caterpillars won't turn into butterflies. According to Kellogg, the bugs are commonly referred to as white-lined sphinx moths, which have distinct white and pink markings on their wings.

He told ABC15 they're native to Arizona and come out of hiding when there's been a wet monsoon year.

“Monsoon rain allows a lot of plants to grow," he said. "When you have a year with a really good monsoon rain like this year, the plants grow really well and a lot of caterpillars are able to find a few they need to survive."

According to Kellogg, the caterpillars will soon enter their third stage of life, also referred to as the pupa stage. He said many areas may start to see some of the moths in the next two to three weeks.