Hello! I just wanted to tell you that I love y…

Hello! I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog and you’re everything I aspire to be!
Can you please tell me what this little dude is doing?
Thanks much!
From,
Biology major from FL 🌱🐛

(submitted by @queen-of-the-wild-things​)

Awww look at your cutie little inchworm! This is a Geometrid moth caterpillar (they have two pairs of prolegs at the very back of their bodies that make them look like crazy dinosaurs with ridiculous thick necks). Caterpillars have silk glands, just like spiders and some other arthropods. The fun thing about caterpillars is their silk glands are on their face, on either side of their mouth. 

Silk glands in caterpillars!
Top Left: Tawny Emperor Butterfly; Top Right: Southern Flannel Moth
Bottom Left: Polyphemus Moth; Bottom Right: Io Moth

When they’re putting down silk, they look like they’re rubbing their face on things (which is exactly what they’re doing). Here are a few things that caterpillars use silk for–mostly it’s safety and transportation:

  • Spinning cocoons
  • Securing a thread and then blowing away in the wind (like baby spiders!)
  • Laying down a carpet for them to grab onto (get a better hold on the leaf/tree/whatever!)
  • Finding their siblings (some species are gregarious after hatching, meaning they stay in large groups–if they get lost, they just need to find a road of silk and they can find their family!)
  • Some species, like tentworms, make big communal safety nets that they live in

Fun fact about the “finding your siblings” method: These caterpillars will lay silk down everywhere they go. If you raise these, the sides of your tank will be constantly getting caked with silk. Also, you end up with caterpillars doing donuts sometimes *shakes head in disappointment*

ANYWAY I don’t know for sure what your inchworm is doing BUT these caterpillars are masters of camouflage. If yours had managed to find a twig that actually matched his color, maybe you wouldn’t have noticed him. It can be a lot of work to be a squishy soft thing and pretend to be a stick all day, maybe that strand of silk is an anchor of sorts? Or maybe he’s starting the foundation of a cocoon? Or maybe it was an accident? I’m not really sure :X

June 6, 2018