One thing to keep in mind regarding caterpillar babies is that they are all still babies! This is so because one of a butterfly’s early life stages is that of a caterpillar. The lives of baby caterpillars begin when they hatch from eggs, and they develop quickly. As a matter of fact, a butterfly’s caterpillar stage lasts for a mere eighteen days.
A newly hatched caterpillar and one that has survived for a week or two, however, differ greatly. For more information about baby caterpillars and their growth and changes throughout this brief period, continue reading.
1. They Will Gain Nearly 1,000 Times Their Body Mass
A caterpillar’s primary function is to feed; in fact, it will consume the shell as soon as it emerges from the egg. The eggshell, also known as the chorion, is rich in protein and other micronutrients that will give the young caterpillar a strong start in life. Although it is difficult to envision a 7-pound newborn human gaining 1,000 times their body weight (that is, 7,000 pounds!), infant caterpillars manage to do it effortlessly! This is as a result of their ability to moult.
A baby caterpillar sheds its skin during moulting and frequently consumes it. Its old skin, known as the exoskeleton, is composed of the caterpillar’s exterior cuticle or skin. In their lifetime, most baby caterpillars moult five or six times.
2. A Newborn Baby Caterpillar Measures Merely 1/64 of an inch
You’ve undoubtedly anticipated that caterpillars must start out rather little, given that throughout their brief early lives, they will increase in mass by a factor of 1,000. Upon hatching, a caterpillar typically measures 1/16th of an inch in length. That is so small that you might not even be able to see it without the use of a magnifying glass or other visual aid. A newly hatched baby caterpillar is smaller than a grain of rice, to put it in perspective!
3. Baby Caterpillars Have 12 Eyes
Despite having two eyes, just like humans, butterflies have six eyes on each side of their face as they hatch into tiny caterpillars. There are species that have anywhere from ten to fourteen eyes, but the most common number is twelve. Caterpillars have a lot of methods to look, although their vision is not particularly good. Rather than seeing genuine colour, their eyes are mostly capable of distinguishing between bright and dark. They are unable to see in colour until they undergo their last transformation into butterflies.
4. They Have a Bunch of Fake Legs
Even if that sounds absurd, it’s true! It’s likely that you’ve noticed that caterpillars appear to have roughly ten or twenty legs. On the other hand, caterpillars have six legs, just like adult moths and butterflies.
Three of those six “real” legs are located on each side of the caterpillar’s thoracic segments, which are located just below their heads. When caterpillars hatch into butterflies, they will retain those legs throughout adulthood.
However, why are there so many prosthetic legs? Prolegs, another name for the artificial legs, aid caterpillars in climbing, walking, and traversing vegetation. Baby caterpillars typically have between two and five pairs of prolegs, depending on the variety.
5. Baby Caterpillars Have Some Unique Defensive Strategies
Caterpillars have had to evolve certain special defence mechanisms against predators because they are small, slow, and visually impaired. Experts in this regard are some baby black swallowtails. When a black swallowtail caterpillar hatches, it has one central white stripe and is otherwise black. They look like bird excrement because of their colouring! As absurd as it may sound, their colouring keeps them safe from many predators who are hunting for food.
The colour of the black swallowtail caterpillars varies after the first few days of life. They have black and white stripes on the outside that change to green, yellow, and black or white. The colouring helps the caterpillars blend in with their surroundings as they move around, chew leaves, and consume plant items. Some caterpillar species, such as the vivid red and green IO moth caterpillars and the red and purple faithful beauty caterpillars, depend on their vivid colouring.
In addition to physical barriers, young caterpillars employ strategies such as protective stances. A remarkable ability of several caterpillar species is to enlarge their anterior body segments. This helps the caterpillars resemble snakes more by causing their eyes and heads to enlarge. Caterpillars have learned to present themselves as closer to the reptiles as possible because many predators won’t meddle with a snake!