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Types of caterpillars and what they grow into

Caterpillars are fascinating creatures that undergo a remarkable transformation known as metamorphosis. From their humble beginnings as tiny larvae, they grow and develop into beautiful butterflies and moths. In this article, we will explore ten different types of caterpillars and delve into what they become.

Types of caterpillars and what they grow into

Hickory Horned Devil: At first glance, the Hickory Horned Devil caterpillars appear intimidating with their arrayed black spikes and orange horns but they are just as harmless as the wings they grow. They are one of the largest caterpillars in North America with striking features of vibrant colours like turquoise green, black and orange.

The Hickory Horned Devil grows up to five inches in length feeding on hickory leaves, ash, persimmons, sycamore and walnut trees. Interestingly, they’re one of the few caterpillars that do not spin cocoons but burrow into the ground in late summer to emerge the following summer as the regal Royal Walnut Moth.

Monarch Butterfly: Perhaps one of the most well-known and smartest butterflies, the morphing process of this popular caterpillar is worth telling. Throughout springtime, female Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and after hatching, they feast on their nutrient-rich eggshells after which they depend on milkweed leaves for survival.

During the process of feeding on milkweed leaves, they ingest cardenolides which are toxins that aren’t harmful to them, but are poisonous to predator birds. Within a few weeks of feeding on a healthy diet, they grow up to 3,000 times their original size. In a short time, they mature into caterpillars and attach themselves to leaves or stems and gradually morph into the familiar black, orange, and white-winged butterfly.

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly:If you’ve come across a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, you’d admit that it is a bit startling. It looks like a mini frog with obvious eyes, but it’s all a disguise for predators. The “evil eyes” are designed to look just like actual eyes with the pupils and white highlights to resemble light reflections.

When this creative camouflage fails to scare away predators, it resorts to using a chemical repellent in the osmeteria, a bright yellow retractable hornlike organ located behind the head. After several weeks of surviving their predators and feeding on sassafras, red bay, and spicebush, these intriguing creatures mature into black winged butterflies with rounds white spots along the edges of the wings.

Puss Caterpillar:  “Puss” might sound like a cute pet name, and it is indeed cute, but attempting to pet these fluffy balls would be a mistake. When it comes to the puss caterpillar, it is safe to not judge a book by its cover, because as cute looking as they are, puss caterpillars are covered in venomous toxins.

Behind their toupee-like fur, they possess poisonous spines that stick to the skin of their predators and can cause symptoms like vomiting, headache, fever and swelling in humans. The pain of these spines is worse than a bee sting. Additionally, they are alleged to be one of the most venomous caterpillars in the U.S.

The defence mechanism of this caterpillar is so strong that it extends into the cocoon it hatches from. Even after hatching, the cocoons go on to survive for weeks even when invaded by lichens. The caterpillar eventually grows into the southern flannel moth with yellow, orange and cream coloured fur around the legs, wings and body

Zebra Longwing Butterfly: The zebra long-wing butterfly feeds on the leaves of passion flower for both survival and protection. These leaves contain psychoactive alkaloids that are bitter, toxic and foul smelling. By consuming these toxins combined with their visually repelling appearance, they become foul-tasting and poisonous to their predators as well.

They can be found in Central America, Florida and Texas and eventually grow into butterflies with long narrow wings.

Saddleback Caterpillar Moth:Warning signals don’t only come in red colour, sometimes it could be neon green, white and a bit of purplish brown. Which is probably how nature chose to warn about the saddleback caterpillar. Just as the name implies, this inch long bug with a neon green saddle on its back may be only an inch long, but its sting goes miles into the skin.

Although it’s not as fluffy as the puss caterpillar, its vibrant colours are equally inviting, but you don’t want to get too close to those four lobes of spines at both ends.

Owl Butterfly: The owl butterfly is proof that not all butterflies have vibrant colours. This brown coloured caterpillar can grow up to six inches long and morph into a long winged butterfly with wings over five inches in length. It can be found in Central and South America and is recognised as the largest butterfly species in America.

Cecropia Moth: Everything about this caterpillar screens healthy diet. After hatching, the cecropia caterpillar comes out black, but after molts, it turns yellow then bluish green. Even though the size of this bug alongside the short spines on the tubercles look frightening, the caterpillar causes no harm to humans.

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly: The cairns birdwing butterfly is Australia’s largest butterfly. It dwells and feeds on the leaves of aristolochia, a poisonous vine. Even though the vine is potentially toxic to humans and other animals, it doesn’t harm the caterpillar. Instead, it stores up the toxins in its multicoloured spikes and eventually matures into large butterflies.

Hag Moth (Monkey Slug) Caterpillar: Also known as the monkey slug caterpillar, this looks nothing close to regular caterpillars. It has a brown hairy body with six pairs of tentacles-like legs (short and long). As much as it minds its business, this caterpillar wants no disturbance from anyone, otherwise it stings with the hairs and causes skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

These are just a few examples of the incredible diversity found among caterpillars and their subsequent transformations into butterflies and moths. By understanding their life cycles and appreciating their beauty, we can gain a deeper appreciation for these remarkable creatures that grace our natural world.

Emmanuella Koughna

Born with an innate gift of storytelling, Koughna Emmanuella has engraved her name on the minds of her audience by seamlessly blending profound insights with captivating prose. Over the course of four years, each of her work has been a testament of mastery of language and an ability to plumb the depths of human emotion, weaving intricate tapestries that resonate with readers across the globe. In her free time, she volunteers with animal shelters in her locality where they cater to homeless pets and other animals who need care. She also enjoys traveling, reading, and karaoke.

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