Caterpillar train

Mimicking a snake

sa mei 2007 029

sa mei 2007 030


Some of the larger caterpillars use patterns and colour to mimic snakes, displaying large ‘eyes’ on the sides of their heads or tails. In doing so they appear less appetising for birds.

These little caterpillarshowever, measuring only about 3cm, won’t get away with that. So instead they grew toxic hair all over their bodies. They also adopted the strategy of forming long trains of up to two metres when foraging for food – hence the term ‘processionary caterpillars’. In this way they can fool birds into mistaking them for a snake instead of individual meals.

These are the larval stage of the moth Thaumetopoea apologetica.


I wonder what they are apologising for? After all, the more successful mommy is, the longer the snake.

Leon Mare
Blog contributor

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