The caterpillar that wants to be as scary as a tarantula

We already knew La Fontaine’s frog who wanted to be as big as an ox. This time, it’s more about a caterpillar. Not quite happy with her condition either. And who wants to be as scary as a tarantula!

At the first shoteyeyou might well think you are dealing with a tarantula and not just any. Certainly the most repulsive of them. But on closer inspection — yes, even you, the arachnophobes –, it is indeed a caterpillar that you will discover. A caterpillar that deserves to be known, moreover because it is really not at all like the others.

This caterpillar belongs to the family of Limacodidae. A family found all over the world. And for good reason: there are at least 1,800 species. A family, above all, which takes its name from the funny shape of these larvae. They look like slugs. They are very flattened and they have suction cups. They move by undulating rather than using their prolegs. For this, they even rely on a kind of lubricanta liquefied silk.

A defense strategy

In the family of Limacodidae, many caterpillars are green and smooth. But some, like Phobetron hipparchia — sometimes also called “monkey slug caterpillar” — have a body bristling with tubercles. Like so many spider legs. They are covered with hairs which can be stinging and even cause pains quite intense if touched.

The question is: why does this caterpillar want to be as scary as a tarantula? Giving herself the appearance of a quality she doesn’t really have? Perhaps for a slightly nobler reason than that of the frog in La Fontaine’s fable who wanted to make himself as big as an ox. Because Phobetron hipparchia simply hopes to facilitate its survival. Escaping malicious onlookers by disguising herself as a fearsome predator.

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