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These are the only animations of Caterpillars and more Animals Animations can be accessed from the table at the bottom of the page.

 

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Both Butterflies and Moths start out as eggs then spend their childhood as caterpillars, called the larval stage. Caterpillars have been called ‘eating machines’ and eat leaves voraciously. They outgrow their skin and shed it several times. After the last shedding, the caterpillar fastens to a branch and enters the pupa or chrysalis stage; moth caterpillars use a silk thread from their silk glands to spin a protective cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the pupa goes through a process called metamorphosis and then evolves into the winged version. Most species shed their skins four or five times as their bodies grow larger and they eventually pupate into an adult form.

The caterpillar’s six front legs transform into the adult insect’s legs, the other ‘prolegs’ disappear, wings grow and the insect emerges as a beautiful moth or butterfly. The cycle can take as little as 3 weeks in the tropics and many months in colder climes. Cold climate species can hibernate for as long as 9 months. Some Arctic Moths may spend up to 14 years as caterpillars, only active a few weeks each summer.

The majority of caterpillars are herbivores and eat mostly leaves, though some species eat all plant parts, fungi and dead animal matter, including other caterpillars.

Their main Predators and Threats are Wasps, birds, parasites and humans.

You can find caterpillars almost everywhere from sandy beaches to meadows to mountain forests, worldwide. There are even caterpillars in some Arctic areas.

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All Swallowtail Caterpillars, if disturbed will suddenly evert bright orange osmeteria (or ‘stinkhorns’) from just behind its head, glandular structures which give off a foul odour.

The caterpillar of the Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea Polyphemus, can eat 86,000 times its weight at birth in little less than two months.

The large edible caterpillar called Mopani or Mopane Worm is an important source of protein for millions of Southern Africans. Dried mopane worms can be eaten raw as a crisp snack; although in Botswana people tend not to eat the head.

The Zebra Caterpillar becomes poisonous by eating poisonous foods and has sharp spines, while the butterfly smells very bad.

Generally, the brightly coloured larvae are poisonous; their colour is a reminder to predators about their toxicity. Stinging Rose Caterpillar is a fine example.

Manduca Sexta or Tobacco Hornworm will increase its weight ten-thousand-fold in less than twenty days.

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The Puss Caterpillar or Woolly Slug is the most poisonous caterpillar in the United States. This peculiar-looking larva spits acid to its predators.

The most aggressive defences are bristles associated with venom glands, called urticating hairs; venom among the most potent defensive chemicals in any animals is produced by the South American Silk Moth genus Lonomia. It is an anticoagulant powerful enough to cause a human to haemorrhage to death.

Cinnabar Caterpillars can turn cannibalistic. This can be due to lack of food but they can eat other Cinnabar larvae for no apparent reason.

Caterpillars of the Common Hook-Tip-Moth, Drepana arcuata, produce sounds to defend their silk nests from members of their own species, by scraping against the leaf in a ritualized acoustic duel.

Caterpillar breathes through small holes on the segments called spiracles.

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Caterpillars have 4,000 muscles while humans have 629 only.

Some people say that when the black bands on the Woolybear caterpillar are wide, a cold winter is coming.

The caterpillars of some Snout Moths (Pyralididae) live in or on water-plants.

Some Case Moth caterpillars (Psychidae) build a case around themselves that they always carry with them. It is made of silk and pieces of plants or soil.

The chemical con trick used by Alcon blue butterfly larvae to get ants to take care of them has been detailed by scientists working in Denmark.

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Caterpillars grow through a series of moults; each intermediate stage is called an instar.

Caterpillars have 4,000 muscles (compare humans, with 629).

In some places, the number of caterpillars feeding on plants is so large that you can actually hear them munching.

Some caterpillars eat as much as 27,000 times their body weight to support their lives as flying insects.

Most caterpillars may have 12 eyes but they are primitive and can do little more than sense light and dark.

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The caterpillar fungus is a traditional medicine that has been widely used as a tonic and/or medicine by the Chinese for hundreds of years.

The use of this fungus was relatively unknown in this country until it was credited for the success of Chinese women athletes at the National Games in Beijing, in 1993. Three Chinese track runners set new world records during the Games. Their coach, Ma Zunren, attributed the runner’s success to due to a stress-relieving tonic prepared from the caterpillar fungus.

A caterpillar has a head and 13 body segments. There are only three pairs of real legs and five pairs of sucker-like prolegs or false legs at the back, with hooks for grabbing. It breathes through small holes on the segments.

The Zebra caterpillar becomes poisonous by eating poisonous foods and has sharp spines, while the butterfly smells very bad. The Puss moth caterpillar spits acid on predators.

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Medium.

 

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