A caterpillar is the larva of a butterfly and some other insects. The caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats a lot, grows quickly, and then pupates. In the pupa, she transforms, hatches, and unfolds her butterfly wings.
The caterpillar’s body consists of three parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head is harder because it contains a lot of chitin. This is a material with a lot of lime. The caterpillars have six spot eyes on each side of their heads. The mouthparts are the most important because the caterpillar actually only has one job: to eat.
Caterpillars have 16 legs, so eight pairs. However, they are not all the same. There are six sternums just behind the head. The caterpillar has eight abdominal feet in the middle of its body. These are short legs that look like suction cups. At the very end, she has two more legs, which are called “pushers”. The caterpillar has openings in various parts of its body through which it breathes.
How do caterpillars pupate and transform?
First, the caterpillar looks for a favorable place. Depending on the species, it can be found on leaves, in the cracks in tree bark, or on the ground. Some caterpillars also spin leaves to better camouflage themselves. Some hang upside down, others upside down.
When the skin gets too tight, the caterpillar sheds it. This happens several times. It is the last time before pupation. Then their spider glands begin to produce a thick sap. This emerges from the spinneret on the head. The caterpillar wraps itself around by clever movements with its head. In the air, the thread dries immediately into a cocoon. In the case of the silkworm, this thread can even be unwound and made into silk.
In the cocoon, the caterpillar is totally rebuilt. The body parts change a lot, and even wings grow. Depending on the species, this takes a few days or weeks. Finally, the young butterfly breaks open its cocoon, crawls out, and spread its butterfly wings.
What enemies do caterpillars have?
Many birds, including owls, like to eat caterpillars. But mice and even foxes also have caterpillars on their menu. Many beetles, wasps, and spiders also partially feed on caterpillars.
Caterpillars cannot defend themselves. So they need good camouflage, which is why many of them are green or tan. Others simply use bright colors to pretend that they are poisonous. Poison dart frogs do the same thing. However, some caterpillars are actually poisonous if you touch them. It then feels like touching a nettle.
Procession spinners have their own specialty. These caterpillars attach themselves to each other so that they look like long strings. They probably do this so their predators will think the caterpillar is a snake. This protection is also effective.