Fun Caterpillar Facts
Of the approximately 160,000 described species of butterflies and moths, only about 15,000 (not even 10 percent) of the associated caterpillars have been described.
Caterpillars do not have bones, but they do have as many as 4,000 muscles in their body which can help them move at a rather quick pace (humans have 629 muscles).
Caterpillars have three pairs of true legs which they will retain in adulthood, and up to five pairs of false legs, called prolegs, which help them hold onto plant surfaces.
Caterpillars do not breathe through their mouths - they breathe through small holes on the segments called spiracles.
Caterpillars can sense light, touch, taste and smell - they have tiny antennae which sense smell.
Caterpillars have 12 eyes - six tiny eyelets on each side of the head. Despite the number of eyes, their eyesight is not very good.
The majority of caterpillars are herbivores (eat only plants), and eat mostly leaves, though some species eat all parts of the plant.
In many forests, caterpillars eat more leaves than all other herbivores combined.
Some caterpillars eat fungi and dead animal matter, including other caterpillars.
Caterpillars eat during the day and night. They can eat an enormous amount - some can eat 27,000 times their body weight during this phase of life.
Many caterpillars defend themselves from predators (like birds) by eating toxic plants - the toxic chemicals make them taste really bad and the predators learn not to eat them.
Other defense mechanisms include: having bright colors to advertise their toxicity, looking like bird droppings, bearing markings that resemble leaf scars or bark, having large eyespots, and having a bad smell.
Caterpillar poop is called “frass”.
Caterpillars spin a small patch of silk, which is used to anchor themselves to something like a branch when shedding their skin.
The caterpillar will molt multiple times as it gains size and mass - they increase their body mass by as much as 1,000 times or more within the span of a few weeks.
A caterpillar's first meal is usually its own shell, and sometimes it eats its old skin when it molts.
Some caterpillars change color or physical appearance in between molts.