The Stinging Rose Moth Caterpillar

Candy Man Updated
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Remember the stunning jewel caterpillar I posted a few days ago? Guess what, today I have an equally stunning caterpillar for you. Meet the Stinging Rose Moth Caterpillar:

Scientifically described as Parasa indetermina, it might leave you wondering... Why is it called stinging? And what's the deal with all the bright and vivid colors? Well, let's first start by saying that the two are connected!

If you could take a really close look,. you would notice that their is covered by pairs of long, horn-like, bristly spines and clumps of smaller spines, all of them with poisonous glands at the base:

Credit:Dyar, H. G. 1897. Life-histories of the New York slug caterpillars

These spines are quite brittle and when touched they break off and release venom to the one doing the touching.  And yeah, these caterpillars may be small but pack quite the sting! Although not lethal to humans, the poison is toxic enough to cause a very painful rash. As the old saying goes...You can look, but you can't touch!

Ok, what about the vivid colors? How are the two connected? This species is one of the many examples in nature of a phenomenon called aposematism.  Aposematism is "an anti-predator adaptation in which a warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators".  Put simply, it's like the caterpillar is holding a sign saying to potential predators "Don't eat me, I am poisonous!" 

Here's another cool photo:

 

Credit: James Shelton 

I can hear you! You want a video too! There you go:

And here's a photo of an adult specimen. Equally stunning if you ask me:

What? A video again? Ok, I am here to serve:

Some more info

The species can be found in North America, from New York to Florida, west to Missouri and Texas. Fully grown caterpillars  are almost an inch in size  and the adult stage has a wingspan of about 2.0 to 2.5 cm. Caterpillars feed on the foliage of various plants like apple, bayberry, hickory, oaks, chestnut and others! As for adults, the mouthparts seem to be rudimentary and from what we know they simply don't eat until their fateful day.

I don't want to bore you with more technical, details, so I will just  leave some links in the end of the post if you want to learn more about the biology of the species, like their lifecycle.

Before I close, here's a sneak peak from another stunning and stinging caterpillar species that I will feature in my next post. Just something quick to get you excited:

 

See ya in my next post!

References & Further Reading

  1.  http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=7926
  2. http://www.acris.nynhp.org/report.php?id=7926
  3. http://enpp.auburn.edu/outreach/web-publications/stinging-caterpillars/
  4. https://bugguide.net/node/view/426
  5. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=4699

 

Responses

  1. Nicholas

    Hm, maybe we dont have the same definition about the “natural beauty” 😀 😀

    I agree, these things are unusual and pretty special, for example colors and morphs, but still, still, we talking about worms ( i know, they arent worms in case of science terminology, if you are a teacher, plz dont hit me 😀 ), and i dont like the worms, except well-roasted with lot of spices 😀

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