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What do caterpillars eat? (Cali, 8)

Almost all caterpillars feed on plants and most plant-feeding caterpillars feed on leaves, which are the most abundant and accessible part of the plant. However, there are some that burrow into stems, and others, called leaf-miners, that live between the top and bottom membranes of a leaf (the adults of these caterpillars are very tiny moths). A few caterpillar species prefer to eat flower petals, and there’s even one that decorates itself with the petals for camouflage (see the below photos).

Even more bizarre are the caterpillars that eat meat. Yes, that’s right: some caterpillars are carnivores! Here is a link to a video of a Hawaiian inchworm caterpillar catching and eating a fly! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAiMzeOfOgA

And in case you think that sort of thing can only happen in exotic, tropical places like Hawaii, here’s a local example of a carnivorous caterpillar. The caterpillar of the harvester butterfly lives among wooly aphids on alder trees, uses their “wool” (which is actually made of wax) for a disguise, and eats them! Harvester butterflies can be seen in Ottawa in the Mer Bleue sector of the Greenbelt. https://uwm.edu/field-station/harvester-butterfly/Dr. Naomi Cappuccino