OK, so no one really cares about moths and butterflies, save for the bug-ologists. However, I got to thinking on my drive home yesterday, and I think moths really ARE better:
Butterflies (adult incarnation) might be prettier than moths more times than not, but so what? They only last a few days in most cases, while a good-sized caterpillar can live a whole year, and go through 6 different life-stages.
Some large butterflies don't even have mouths or bellies--they're just sacks of wet wings and eggs, waiting to unfold, lay, and die!
But moths (and particularly their caterpillar stages)...they are where it's at. Just click on the links below and see some truly amazing, beautiful, and crazy creatures. You'll think you're watching a sci-fi movie or some undersea documentary. The coolest thing is, so many of these crazy beasties are right in own own back yards! All the links below that go to Picasaweb are my own pics I took in my own back yard. A few of these I've seen, but haven't taken pics of. Most of these live in America, but not all.
Then scroll past the "pretties" to read about the worlds biggest moth (much bigger than wimpy butterflies), death-from-the-skies moths, poison-spiked- slug-moths without any legs, hovering Hummingbird moths, real blood-sucking Russian vampire moths (in Soviet Russia...), and moths that lay eggs inside their victims...watch your back!
Jewel Caterpillar: (external sites: these images are worth it!)
Spun Glass Moth:
Stinging Rose Caterpillar:
Saddleback Caterpillar: (pictured, right) This little guy can be found all over the southern United States. He has no legs, leaves a slime trail wherever he goes, and is covered on both ends with sharp, hollow, and fragile spines. If they prick you, they will break off and inject you with poison, causing a painful rash. Don't let this scare you away from carefully inspecting him--his spines protect him from being eaten, not gently handled. Like most of the roughly 50 stinging caterpillars in North America, the Saddleback caterpillar has spines that must be pressed fairly hard to cause damage. The hairy caterpillars (like the Spun Glass moth above) are the ones you have to worry about (note: another, the asp/ pussy moth/ southern flannel moth is so dangerous, it's actually life-threatening).
Spiny Oak Caterpillar: (pictured, right) As his name implies, this little pre-moth likes oak leaves. He's hard to find, but not due to distribution. He can be found in of N. America, but he's tiny. Again, lookout for his spines--they're poisonous and can pack a punch if you aren't careful with them.
Hummingbird Hawk-Moth: (pictured, right) This beautiful little guy looks, moves, and sounds just like a real hummingbird. They hover, hum, fly in reverse, and drink nectar just like their lookalike avian friends, but came from caterpillars nonetheless.
3 different "Christmas lights" Caterpillars:
Saturnia Pyria Caterpillar:
Cecropia Moth Caterpillar:
Drury Jewel Moth: the "light bulbs" on this one are glistening drops of cyanide
Fuzzy Bee Moth: (pictured, right) Hemaris diffinis This little moth can float like a butterfly and drink nectar like a bee. Actually, he can float better than a butterfly, he can float like a bee, which is just what he needs for draining nectar from flowers. Try that, butterflies. It is one of the few moths with clear wings. Another, is a family of North American Hummingbird Moths.
Io Moth Caterpillar: The Io Moth caterpillar is covered with a pretty spectacular array of poisonous spines. I held this one in my hands and let him crawl over me quite a bit. Their spines are large enough that their weight simply isn't enough to get them into your skin. Perhaps they might thrash up against another caterpillar and stab them, but it had no luck getting through my epidermis. I would have had to squeeze it to receive any damage from this spiny little fellow, which was by no means my intention. We happily parted ways after a successful photo shoot in my back yard.
Lunar Moth Caterpillar: (pictured, right) The large caterpillar can be found east of the Great Plains, from Canada to Northern Mexico. This caterpillar goes through 5 instars (stages/ body forms), shedding and eating its former skins each time. At the end of its 5th instar, it spins a cocoon, then vomits (technically, "gut-dumps") and forms a pupa inside it's cocoon, to emerge as an adult moth 2 weeks later.
Atlas Moth: bigger than any wimpy butterfly (62 square-inches of wings!)
Hornet Moth: (pictured right) Close enough to scare me, this moth is the same size as the common hornet, and even flies in a similar pattern and speed. It does not sting.
The N. American Hickory Horned Devil Royal Walnut Moth, also known as the Regal Moth [caterpillar], is found all over the southern half of the US, is one of the largest caterpillars around. It looks pretty evil, but it's actually harmless; its spines serve no function other than scare tactics/ psychological bug warfare. The furry moth it grows into is nothing to sneeze at either; check it out at wikipedia:
Death from the skies! Yellowtail Moth
The Yellowtail Moth has hairs filled with toxins that cause a painful, itching, festering rash in mamals' skin. It has these hairs both as a caterpillar, and as an adult moth--which is rare in the world of moths. While their damage would normally be limited to whoever they can crawl onto, they can--literally--in rare cases--rain death from the skies. How?
Well, when a mangrove swamp in their native Venezuela and Guyana becomes overpopulated with them, they begin to cluster. They have a nasty habit...they are attracted to light. So, in the cool of the evening, they are attracted to the lights of nearby villages. If their clusters are large enough, when they fly to town, their urticating hairs not only infect the entire village with severe and painful dermatitis, they also release enough of their toxic hairs fester in their victims' lungs enough to suffocate them, unless the entire village simultaneously receives emergency medical treatment. Beware the wrath of Mothra!
Russian Vampire Moth
I could tell you, but you wouldn't believe me. Just click on National Geographic's link:
...In Soviet Russia, moth...<fill in the blank>
more cool moth caterpillar pics:
Lily on August 06, 2020:
Um excuse me, butterflies better the environment, moths can’t pollinate don’t they just eat everything. Butterflies go from a bad for the environment to a good for the environment, they can be a symbol for the reassurance that people change. Moths go from constantly eating everything.......... to constantly eating everything and making all of the beautiful plants rot.
Chris Hibbard (author) on September 21, 2012:
Han Solo: I actually laughed out loud at your Soviet response. :D
And no, I didn't make any of this up. Some of the pics are my own, the others you see on this page are from Wikipedia, and then the truly spectacular Jewel Moth photos are proprietary, so I can only paste their links here. There are very few pics out there of this amazing caterpillar.
Check the links at Wikipedia, and check their sources also (quite well documented). Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. :D
Han solo on August 10, 2012:
Moths rul! I had no idea! U make any this up?
"in Soviet Russia, BLOOD suck YOUR moth!"
Omnivium on August 10, 2012: