Everybody loves caterpillars, right?
Introducing Timmy, the tobacco hornworm.He's the latest addition to my collection of gigantic insect soft sculptures, for sale in my etsy shop. Hand sewing his stripes and spiracles was tedious work, but well worth it. He's so cuddly and squishy!
And now I'd like to talk a bit about caterpillars. As most of you probably know, they're part of the life cycle of butterflies and moths. These insects of the order Lepidoptera, as well as several other orders of insects, go through holometabolous development, which has four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and imago (adult). Caterpillars are the larval stage, and they create cocoons or chrystalids to pupate in. They are mostly herbivorous, but there are a few species that will actually eat other insects.Caterpillars may look like they have a lot of legs, but like all other insects, they only have six. The rest are prolegs, fleshy extensions with tiny hooks at the ends to aid in gripping and movement.
Since they are pretty much soft bags filled with yummy innards, they need to defend themselves. Different species go about this different ways. Some, like the hornworm, have one or more spines (some are completely covered!). Stinging hairs, nasty chemicals, noxious secretions, warning colors, camoflauge or a disgusting taste can keep predators away. Many of these properties are due to the plants on which the caterpillars feed. One really funky strategy is employed by the swallowtail caterpillar. They have fleshy protrusions, that smell gross, that they can stick out of their body to deter predators.
While the adults are extremely popular due to their often elaborately decorated wings, the larval stage is just as fascinating. Raising one from a larva to an adult is an interesting process I think everyone should experience.
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