Honestly, you have seen a caterpillar in your lifetime, and you have possibly even handled it. But what do you know about Lepidopteran larvae? Caterpillars are fascinating little creatures, slow, slimy pests which crawl their way into bright futures as wild and free butterflies. Many caterpillars’ facts available online and in books offer information about the environment, habitat, diet and butterfly transformations. Nevertheless, did you know there are several other interesting facts about caterpillars which most books forget to reveal?
Caterpillar is the popular name for the larvae of members that belong to the order Lepidoptera (the insect order consisting moths and butterflies). As with most famous names, the application of the word is often arbitrary, and the larvae of sawflies commonly are known as caterpillars as well. Caterpillars of many species are herbivorous, but not all; some are also insectivorous, even cannibalistic. Some feed on other animal products; for instance, horn moths feed on the horns and hooves of dead ungulates, and clothes moths feed on wool.
Caterpillars, as a rule, are always voracious feeders and most of them are among the most adverse of agricultural pests. Several moth species are famous in their caterpillar stages because of the severe damage they cause to the fruits and other agricultural produce. Besides, the moths are often obscure and are harmless. On the other hand, different species of caterpillar treasured for biological control of pest plants, as sources of silk, or as human or animal food.
Moths and Butterflies spend their childhood as caterpillars, referred to as the larval stage. Caterpillars eat continuously. They outgrow their skin and even shed it many times. After the final shedding, the caterpillar attaches to a tree branch and enters the chrysalis or pupa stage; moth caterpillar uses a silk thread from their silk glands to develop (spin) a protective cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the pupa eventually goes through a process known as metamorphosis. The six front legs of caterpillar transform into the legs of an adult insect, the other “prolegs” vanish, wings grow, and the insect develops as a beautiful butterfly or moth.
These unique and interesting facts about caterpillars will provide adequate information for you understand how they are remarkable creatures:
- A caterpillar has just one job – eat a lot. During their larval stage, the caterpillars must consume a significant amount of food to sustain itself into the next stage-adulthood. That is the reason they are nicknamed “eating machines” because all they do is to eat, eat and eat!
- Caterpillar has six pairs of small, pure eyes known as ocelli, and also called stemmata. These eyes can’t see images but can easily detect light intensity.
- Caterpillars quickly sense touch through their antennae and even through their tiny hair is known as setae that are all over their bodies.
- There are approximately 180,000 various species or kinds of caterpillars.
- Several caterpillars are camouflaged to blend only into their host plant and their environment, yet some caterpillars have gorgeous, bright colors!
- Predators of caterpillars include mammals, birds, wasps and other caterpillars.
- The life span of a caterpillar is about two to four weeks.
- Caterpillars have three body parts; head, thorax, and abdomen, like all insects, do. They have a hard, external covering known as an exoskeleton.
- Many caterpillars are herbivores. Therefore, they only fed on plants like fruits and leaves, while some species of caterpillars will feed on other insect’s eggs, or even other caterpillars like the Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar.
- Most famous butterfly/caterpillar in North America is called Monarch butterfly/caterpillar.