If you have a garden then you might, at some point in your life, have seen caterpillars during the springtime. Since they transform into butterflies, they are of special interest to the kids.
In this article, we have tried to gather some mind-blowing caterpillar facts for kids for you to read and gather more information about them.
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Caterpillars for Kids
Caterpillars are small worms that are found worldwide. They transform into moths and butterflies. The silkworms are the ones that are majorly in demand because of their ability to produce silk. They are even harvested for this very cause. Let us know more about them.
1. Caterpillars have 12 eyes
The caterpillars are known to have 6 pairs of eyes which are tiny eyelets known as stemmata. These are arranged in a semi-circle around their head from one side to the other. Even with so many eyelets, the caterpillars do not see images and colors.
These eyes are only helpful in identifying light and darkness. They are usually more active at night and come out to eat during nighttime since in the morning they are more prone to predators.
2. Protection from predators
They often hide in their host plants to protect themselves from the predators like birds, small mammals, and other insects that feed on them. While in search of food, they also arrange themselves in a long row resembling a snake.
These long rows might contain about 300 caterpillars and the predators, thinking them to be poisonous snakes, try to avoid them. The caterpillars are harmless in general, but they do have stinging hairs that irritate when comes in contact with skin.
3. The only job for them is to eat
The caterpillar is the larvae stage of the butterflies and the moths. During this stage, the priority is to get as much nutrition as possible. Hence, the caterpillars do pretty much nothing all day long except for eating and resting.
It needs a huge amount of nutrition for metamorphosis and laying eggs when becomes an adult. The malnutrition may take them to adulthood but they are not able to reproduce then. Some species consume as much as 27,000 times their body weight during their lifetime.
4. Caterpillars have six legs
Well, this is surprising as you must have seen more than 6 legs on a caterpillar. But like most insects, the working or true legs on a caterpillar are in three pairs. The rest of the legs which usually count up to 5 pairs are prolegs or false legs.
They lose these prolegs during metamorphosis. The 3 pairs of legs are retained by them into adulthood when they transform into a butterfly or a moth. The prolegs help them in moving in a wavelike motion starting from the terminal pair.
To know more about butterflies you can read our article – 11 Amazing Butterfly Facts for Kids
5. Zombie Caterpillar and Assassin Caterpillar
The gypsy moth caterpillars are infected with a disease caused by a virus named baculovirus. This virus turns them into zombies, meaning they are hypnotized into climbing the top of the trees to die.
After reaching the top, they wait to die and then molt and the liquid of those infected caterpillars drops down on their population living in the same tree, infecting them as well.
The Assassin Caterpillar on the other hand is known for its poisonous venom that is capable of killing humans. It has caused many deaths majorly in Southern Brazil. Its venom is being studied by experts.
6. They have a huge number of muscles in the body
The muscles inside a Caterpillar body are far more than the humans. They have 4,000 muscles in their body. Since they do not have any bones inside them, they take the help of these muscles for their movement.
Out of these 4,000 muscles, 248 muscles are present in their head. The caterpillars grow fast. They have an exoskeleton which they shed 4 – 5 times in their lifetime as it becomes tight due to their fast growth. This process is known as molting.
7. They are known for producing Silk
The caterpillars of the silkmoth are known for producing silk. These caterpillars after hatching from the eggs follow a heavy diet of mulberry leaves for around six weeks. Then they start spinning their cocoons.
It takes 3 – 8 days for them to create the cocoon which is made of a single silk strand. This single strand of silk can measure up to 328 feet long. The head of these silk-producing caterpillars has two glands where the silk is produced in liquid form.
8. Caterpillar habitat and diet
Caterpillars are often found in forests and pastures where there is an abundance of leaves and grasses that can provide them with enough food. They can also be agricultural pests since they destroy plants and crops and feed on them.
They damage agricultural fields and leave the crops inedible and unhealthy for consumption. Most of them are herbivores and eat leaves of fruit trees and vegetables. You should be careful if you see one in your garden as it can destroy your plants.
9. The process of metamorphosis
As we have gathered that caterpillar is the larvae stage of the moths and butterflies. They often start as eggs which are mostly laid underside of the leaves. Then the eggs hatch and the caterpillars start out by eating their own eggshells to gain nutrition.
The rest of their life is spent eating and hiding from the predators. They keep on shedding their outer skin but the final shedding is replaced by chrysalis. Inside this chrysalis, the caterpillars transform and when the transformation is complete, they come out as butterflies or moths.
10. Caterpillars change color
Though it is often hard to notice the change in their colors, the caterpillars are known to change colors as they grow or defend themselves. Based on their habitats, they can change their color according to the tree or leaf they are living on.
Although these colors are not related to the colors they grow into after finally emerging as butterflies. The adult butterfly or moth can have an entirely different color from its larvae or caterpillar stage.
11. They do not have lungs
Like all other insects, the caterpillars do not possess lungs for respiration. They have a tube called the trachea that helps in delivering oxygen inside their bodies. They have spiracles which are small openings along the sides of their bodies that help in taking the air.
During their movement, the compression and extension of the segments of their bodies help in taking in oxygen and giving out carbon dioxide.
Different Types of Caterpillars
There are around 180,000 types and 20,000 species of caterpillars found in the entire world. We are going to have a look at the most common ones that are often seen.
- Machaon caterpillar is most common in the plantations and transforms into diurnal butterflies. They feed on fennel and rue plants.
- Grey threads are also known as grey worms. They have cylindrical bodies and smooth skin and are grey or brown.
- Saddleback caterpillar is native to North America. They are initially green in color and later develop brown, green, and white colored designs.
- Green donut is a large family found on plantations worldwide. Contrary to their name, they can be of yellow, green, and brown colors.
- Green or Brown threads twist around to protect themselves when feeling danger. They have two main species.
- Plusia Caterpillar transforms into moths. They are known for destroying crop fields and orchards. They are known as lizards in some parts of the world.
- Cabbage worm mostly inhabits orchards and feed on cabbages. They have different color patterns and transform into butterflies.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Caterpillars do possess antennae that help them in smelling and finding food.
In general, the caterpillars have 16 legs that include 5 pairs of prolegs and 3 pairs of true legs.
Not all of them transform into butterflies. Some of them turn into moths as well. Both butterflies and moths have caterpillars as babies.
The scientific name of the caterpillar is Lepidoptera.
Caterpillars are the younger form of butterflies and moths and are insects.
A group of caterpillars is known as an army.
The baby caterpillar is also known as larvae.
Caterpillars mainly feed on plant leaves. Some of them also eat seeds and flowers.
The majority of the population is herbivores. Some of them may eat fungi and dead animal matter that includes other caterpillars as well.
A caterpillar can eat a large leaf in a single day. They do not eat the entire day as many believe. They mostly eat during nights when their predators are not able to locate them.
They need a host plant that would provide them with constant food, ventilation, safety from predators, and a safe place to transform into a chrysalis.
Caterpillars have two teeth like parts called mandibles that help them in biting and chewing food.
Caterpillars do have brains that are broken down during their transformation into a butterfly and are rebuilt in the adult butterfly.
The caterpillars can get as big as 5.5 inches.
The caterpillars have series of small openings along their body called spiracles through which they breathe.
Caterpillars generally live on their host plants so that they can have access to food easily.
Caterpillars are invertebrates as they do not possess a spine.
The caterpillars are known to walk in a line to assemble with their own kind near the food sources which also helps them in finding food by following other caterpillars. It also helps them in finding their way back to their nests.
Caterpillars do not possess bones in their bodies. They move by squeezing their muscles and move in a wave motion.
The head of the caterpillars consists of 12 tiny eyes known as stemmata. They have six eyes on each side of their head.
They have around 4000 muscles in their body which help in their movement.
The caterpillars do have exoskeletons and they are known for shedding these exoskeletons while growing up as they become smaller for their bodies.
Most of the caterpillars are known to be nocturnal and eating during the nighttime as it keeps them safe from predators.
Caterpillars have stinging hairs that can irritate. Although most of them are very easy to handle if held a little carefully.
Usually, the bright colored caterpillars are poisonous and should be avoided touching with bare hands.
It takes 9 – 14 days for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly.
They are not known to feel pain as their nervous system does not have pain receptors.
These were some of the mesmerizing caterpillar facts for kids. Caterpillars are mainly harmless insects but you need to be careful while handling them. Try to know about the particular type and species before touching them as they can be dangerous too.