|Saddleback caterpillar- Patrick Coin|
|Black Swallowtail osmeteria- biology.clc.uc.edu|
A major threat to caterpillars, or cats as we Butterfly House wranglers refer to them, are parasitic wasps. Many tiny wasps lay their eggs on caterpillars. Their larvae then enter the cats, changing their metabolism or even their behavior. After developing inside the cat, they emerge and the wounded cat fails to pupate.
Some caterpillars rare back and toss their heads around when touched, attempting to drive off the predator. Gregarious caterpillars such as those in the video below feed in clusters on the same plant. They may use this head tossing as a group defensive maneuver. In Dr. Chris Barnhart's words:
"Gregarious caterpillars may get some defense from parasitoid wasps by flinging their heads around when disturbed. The parasitoids have to get close to lay their eggs and can be knocked away. Being surrounded by others, all flinching at once, probably makes this a more effective defense."Roy Thompson of our Butterfly House wranglers has recently advanced the science when he noticed that Mourning Cloak caterpillars would also toss their heads around to sudden sound. He has now connected with them through music- he has them responding to rap! Watch their heads carefully as they dance to Roy's Cat Rap below.
Music and vocal by Roy Thompson
Filmed and directed by Dr. Chris Barnhart