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News Story
Updated: 10/04/2013 06:27:37PM

Avoid these stinging caterpillars

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (MICHAEL HOLROYD)

The Io moth caterpillar is pale green with yellow or white and red stripes. It usually exceeds two inches in length and is fairly stout-bodied. Spines are usually yellow with black tips. Ixora and rose are their favorite hosts.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (SHAWN HANRAHAN)

The first instar of the Io moth caterpillar is bright orange. They are often seen clustered on plant stems as the feed voraciously at this stage.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY JEAN EVOY

The Saddleback caterpillar is brown with a green back and flanks. The green area looks like a saddle blanket, with a brown spot looks like a saddle. This stout-bodied caterpillar has poisonous spines borne on the back of paired fleshy protuberances toward the front and hind ends. There is also a row of smaller stinging organs on each side.

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Caterpillars employ many strategies to survive. Many use crypsis — or blending in with their surroundings. Coloration, shape, or even attaching bits of plant matter helps conceal them. Some use disruptive colors and bold patterns to serve as a warning. Strategies such as dropping off a plant at the least disturbance, or hanging from a belay line, also help caterpillars survive. Other behavioral actions such as feigning an attempt to bite, regurgitating, making a noise, or even enlisting the help of other insects to defend them help caterpillars survive.

Many use hairs or bristles called setae to disguise the outline of the caterpillar. Some of those hairs are loaded with potent chemicals that can cause a painful stinging sensation.

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