Crazy Caterpillars

Fluffy, fierce and fabulous, these larvae are just as fascinating as the butterflies and moths they become

 

It’s all or nothing for the Suraka silk moth’s cocoon

Caterpillars of the Suraka silk moth come in a variety of colours and patterns. Found in Madagascar, the larvae become moths with large eyespots – the wings with these spots are raised when the moth is alarmed in a ‘startle response’. Some caterpillars of this species spin cocoons with drainage and ventilation holes, while others forego a cocoon and pupate on the ground.

 

Encounters with this caterpillar can be costly

 

Like the Suraka silk moth, this caterpillar belongs to the Saturniidae family of moths. It’s the larvae of the Automeris metzli moth and can be found from Mexico to northern South America. The impressive branched spines aren’t just for decoration – they protect the caterpillar by delivering a painful sting to anything that gets too close.

 

From colourful caterpillar to gothic giant

The sinister-sounding death’s-head hawkmoth is the UK’s largest moth. It produces a caterpillar that can grown up to 12.7 centimetres (five inches) and feeds on potatoes. These giant larvae make a clicking sound when threatened and can even bite an attacker. After metamorphosis the caterpillar becomes a dark moth with the skull-like marking that earned the species its name.

This caterpillar isn’t sluggish in the face of danger

Members of the Limacodidae family are often referred to as ‘slug moths’ because their caterpillars have flattened bodies and,
instead of true legs, have a sticky underside and move with a wave motion. Found in Southeast Asia, Phocoderma velutina caterpillars can inject venom from sacs at the base of their hairs if a predator attempts to eat them or a person brushes against them, as they sit on the underside of leaves.

 

This caterpillar is easily spotted

The sycamore moth is found across most of Europe, Morocco and as far east as west Asia. This caterpillar is covered in long orange and yellow hairs with distinctive spots down its back, but it becomes a dull grey and white adult. Despite the shocking colours, this caterpillar isn’t toxic.