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This Destructive Forest Insect Has One Strange Habit

June 2nd, 2017

There is not much that is interesting about moth-larvae (caterpillars), but one caterpillar is too strange to ignore. The properly named processionary-caterpillar is known for moving about on land with each of its ends touching the end of another caterpillar. In other words, these caterpillars move as though they are taking part in a procession. These caterpillars are also a bit on the aggressive side as they will sting anyone that disturbs their activities. These caterpillars sting other animals, and people, by flinging hairs at their victim’s faces. These hairs then cause the victim considerable stinging pains. The hairs that cause this pain are known as urticating hairs, and many spiders attack other animals in much the same manner.

Processionary-caterpillars are also unusually social for insects. For example, sibling caterpillars will remain with one another for the entirety of the larval stage, often pupating side by side. At first, these caterpillars roam the land in a nomadic way, and build shoddy shelters made from a few sticks and some silk. However, after their third molting, these caterpillars begin work on a permanent nest.

Colonies of processionary-caterpillars remain active during the winter months. Research shows that these caterpillars leave their communal-nest after the sun sets in order to travel to distant locations for sustenance. After feeding, these caterpillars return to their nest at dawn. During the mid-winter processionary-caterpillars leave during the coldest hours of the night. Amazingly, these caterpillars are even able to move at sub zero temperatures, which would kill the vast majority of insects. These caterpillars release pheromones from each end in order to attract other caterpillars of its type. The pheromone-intoxicated caterpillars will then latch onto the open end of the last caterpillar in a procession. Researchers are still studying the reasons behind this bizarre insect behavior.

Have you ever witnessed caterpillars traveling in a procession?

 

 

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