Fascinatingly Creepy!

I am increasingly fascinated with little creatures, and this happened a few years ago when I started with flower macro photography. I often found bugs on the flowers, and this lead me to ‘bug hunting’. I am fortunate to have a generous garden that is home to an array of little creatures.

A week ago I discovered these Ermine Caterpillars, which will eventually produce the Ermine moth. At first there was just an army of caterpillars in different stages of growth.

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This is pretty fascinating, but creepy. I got as close as I could to photograph them, bearing in mind that some might fall on me from the top of the tree, so I kept a healthy distance.

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Here the caterpillars are in the process of spinning silk. A number of thick strands are set up and smaller stands are connected to those, forming a web. They are really hard workers and spin fast. This caterpillar is also known as the tent caterpillar. There are a number of species. The tents they create can be extremely large, covering wide areas.

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Why do they do this? There is protection in numbers, but the tent effect protects them from predators, and within the safety of the ‘tent’, they can happily chomp away until the very last leaf.

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This is my favorite photograph. Kind of like a caterpillar tightrope!

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After three days, the caterpillars started to drop to the ground. Not surprisingly, as there was very little food left. Obviously, a large number of them will pupate in areas on or around the tree, and an adult, white/yellowish black spotted moth will appear in a month or two. I think the whole process of egg to caterpillar, to butterfly/moth is one of the most beautiful in nature.

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As a nature lover, I see no point in destroying the caterpillars. They form part of the cycle of life, and poisons kill everything that comes into contact with it, including birds and smaller wildlife. The tree will recover, and in spring will bloom again. This makes me think of forest fires; they are devastating, but afterwards new growth is lusher than ever.

Copyright © Caroline Street. Art, Poetry and Photography.

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