Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nature Weird: A Gathering of Walnut Caterpillars

One of my shades of weird is butterflies and moths and caterpillars.  In fact, I am working on a fantasy novel that centers around them (mostly around the black swallowtail).  And guess what we found today?  Caterpillars.  Gregarious.  Very gregarious.  In our tree.

My phone Google search identified them as walnut caterpillars. 

Some interesting factoids pulled from several links.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extensions says that the caterpillars "often move in a group to the tree trunk to molt from one stage (instar) to the next, leaving a patch of fur-like hair and cast skins." 

Which we have evidence of.

The other factoid comes from University of Nebraska-Lincoln: "Larvae behave oddly when threatened, arching their fore- and hind-legs in a defensive posture."

Which we have video evidence of.   (External links.)  Here of me with a stick and a light touch.  And here of a showdown between a bee (?) and a few of the caterpillars.

Finally, they are supposed to be a pretty bad pest . . .

. . .  so it may not be the best idea to raise them.  Not that it is a good idea anyway, because, according to my research, it sounds like they need to burrow into the ground to make a cocoon.

Either way, they sound interesting enough, so I may have to work this caterpillar and moth into my novel.  


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