Parasitised and Mummified Slug Caterpillars (Cup Moths, Limacodidae), mummified (left) and normal appearance (right)

Despite all their bells, whistles and gadgetry aimed at protecting themselves, the prevailing nemesis of Limacodid caterpillars is parasitism. Parasitoids (parasites that kill the host in the process of completing their life cycle rather than reusing/reinfecting the host) have adapted specifically to these caterpillars and, in some cases, to individual species of Limacodids, to further their survival.

Wasps of the family Braconidae are one such example. One of the techniques they employ is “mummification”.

An egg is injected into the caterpillar by the female wasp and the hatched larva goes through its multistage growth cycle selectively consuming non-essential tissues of the caterpillar. To this point, the caterpillar may appear completely normal externally. When it comes time for the wasp grub to pupate and transition into the adult wasp, rather than erupt out into the world, the pupa is formed inside the caterpillar. By this time, the caterpillar succumbs to the alien growing inside it and dies. The developing wasp, however, chemically mummifies the caterpillar into a hardened shell which retains the shape and/or spiny defences of the former caterpillar. In other parasitoid situations where the mummification process is not employed, the carcass would just rot, dessicate and collapse, even be carried away by scavengers. However, part of this process turns the mummy bright yellow or orange. These colours scream “Danger!”, “I taste awful!”, “I am poisonous!” and “Don’t touch me!” in the eyes of nature. So not only does the wasp-to-be have a ready made incubator to metamorphose within, but it is unlikely that anything is going to disturb it or eat it, including other parasitoids.

These mummified carcasses can persist in place long after the adult wasp has emerged and moved on to the next victim. However, the otherwise flawless form is marred by a gaping hole through which the adult wasp has emerged.

External image

(above) A parasitoid Braconid Wasp (Spinaria sp., Rogadinae, Braconidae) surveys the empty shell of a Limacodid Slug Caterpillar incubator (Cup Moth, Demonarosa rufotessellata, Limacodidae) “Tank” which served as it’s host, larder and incubator.

by Sinobug (itchydogimages) on Flickr.
Pu'er, Yunnan, China

View my other images of Limacodid Caterpillars from China in my Flickr photostream HERE….

The winning design of my plush contest, the hamburger doggerpillar by Nora Meek! This one took about three days to make. My favorite part was figuring out the lettuce. I could have just made a flat piece that looked like a green flower but I wanted to go all out and make something I could be proud of.
I had to rearrange some of the ingredients from the original design so they would be more visible on the plush. I also made it so some of the ingredients would hang out a bit. The girth of the design is given by the tomatoes and meat paddy. I went ahead and made the paddy extra thick. The lettuce leaves dress it up rather well I think.

The plush is assembled with embroidery thread going straight through some of the ingredients to ensure that it won’t fall apart. If you were inclined on destroying it, you’re going to have a hard time unless you, yanno, use scissors or a knife. I would recommend against doing that.

Thanks to everyone who entered! I will be opening up commissions soon!


Tawny Rajah Butterfly “Dragonhead” Caterpillars (Charaxes bernardus, Charaxinae, Nymphalidae)

The larvae of the butterflies of the Nymphalid subfamily Charaxinae are blessed with impressive head ornamentation appropriately earning them the title of dragonhead caterpillars.

by Sinobug (itchydogimages) on Flickr.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China

See more Chinese caterpillars on my Flickr site HERE…..