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Wavy-lined Emerald Moth Caterpillar: Master of Disguise

Caterpillars are subject to extreme predation, especially by birds.  A single pair of breeding Black-capped Chickadees must find 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to rear one clutch of young, according to Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Insects contain more protein than beef and 96% of North American land birds feed them to their young.

It’s thus not surprising that caterpillars have evolved a number of impressive survival strategies, including resembling bird droppings and looking/acting like branches and leaves waving in the breeze.  The Wavy-lined Emerald Moth (Synchlora aeratalarva) larva, or caterpillar, uses camouflage as well, but goes about achieving it in a slightly different way; it attaches bits of the plant tissue (often flowers) on which it is feeding onto its back, so that it blends in to its surroundings very effectively. Totally camouflaged, the caterpillar can munch away in relative safety, replacing dead petals with live ones when necessary.

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6 responses

  1. Diane

    Very cool.

    August 2, 2021 at 8:19 am

  2. Alice

    So amazing! Brilliant…all safe, until the birds start passing around a book about Caterpillar ID-ing.

    August 2, 2021 at 8:41 am

  3. For goodness sake! This photo is remarkable. And thanks for the equally remarkable statistics about the role insect larvae play in the food chain of chickadees and other birds!

    August 2, 2021 at 12:33 pm

  4. BTW ~ That link is incomplete! The only one that actually works is the BIg Yellow Donate Button, on the right!

    This site can’t be reached Check if there is a typo in
    If spelling is correct, try running Windows Network Diagnostics.

    August 2, 2021 at 2:16 pm

  5. Wow, that is amazing!

    August 2, 2021 at 7:53 pm

  6. victoria weber

    How do the caterpillars get the flower bits to stick to their bodies I wonder…

    August 3, 2021 at 2:19 pm

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