When people see a caterpillar inching its way across a blade of grass or your jacket, they’re bound to react in one of two ways. They either say, “Oh, cool” or they run away yelling, “No, no, no, no, no!” Caterpillars are gorgeous and more than a little peculiar. But have you ever taken a closer look at them? Especially at what their 'legs' and ‘feet’ look like?
Caterpillar ‘feet’ are weird. But cool. And gross. But cute. And they totally look like alien appendages with suction cups. Bored Panda was fascinated by these grippy ‘false legs,’ called prolegs, so we collected a whole bunch of caterpillar 'leg' and ‘feet’ photos to show you. So scroll down and enjoy dear Readers. Remember to upvote your fave pics and let us know if you have any cool caterpillar facts for all of us in the comments below.
Craig Macadam from the Buglife charity in the UK told Bored Panda that caterpillars have two different types of feet. "They have three pairs of segmented legs at the front of the insect. These true legs have three separate main sections: femur, tibia, tarsi, and at the end of the leg is a small claw. This claw is used to hold on to the plant stem or leaf that the caterpillar is sitting on."
He continued: "They've also got 5 pairs of prolegs or 'false' legs. These are fleshy stumps that have a series of microscopic hooks on their base which are used for clinging and climbing." Scroll down for the rest of our interview with Craig from Buglife, as well as for our other two interviews with the Insect Lore Europe team, as well as with Imgurian Attackoftentacle whose post about caterpillar feet went viral. Enjoy!
Craig from Buglife told us that even if a caterpillar has vivid colors and markings, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's poisonous. "Yellow/black and red/black marking usually indicate toxic insects but some insects mimic this patterning to pretend that they are dangerous and should be avoided. Color and pattern are also used in camouflage, and in some insects the visible color we see is not what other animals might see. Many animals and plants fluoresce in ultraviolet light and it's likely that they appear differently to animals that can sense this light."
He also told us some more awesome things about caterpillars. For instance, Craig said that some caterpillars consume 27k times their body weight in food during their lifetime. What's more, caterpillars shed their skin 5 or 6 times before pupating and some caterpillars can even have as many as 4k muscles in their body. He also revealed that the caterpillars of china mark moths live underwater and make a case out of leaves.
The number of legs that a caterpillar has depends on a couple of things. Like what kind of caterpillar it is. Or what stage of Pokémon evolution your particular Caterpie is at. But sometimes things get even weirder.
It’s common for butterflies or moths from the same family to have the same number of legs on their caterpillars. However, this isn’t always the case. Some caterpillar species don’t have any legs at all!
Imgur user Attackoftentacle, who has a fascination with caterpillars, took a few courses in entomology during their Forestry degree, and posted about caterpillar legs on Imgur, told Bored Panda a little bit more about these intriguing creatures.
The Imgurian confirmed that, in general, caterpillars have 3 pairs of true legs that are attached under the thorax. All of these legs are segmented and have joints, just like our knees and ankles. They all have a little claw on the end, too.
“The 'feet' seen in my post are the fake legs, known as caterpillars prolegs,” the Imgurian said.
They added that insects and their importance for the stability of our ecosystems (which our existence depends on) are often underappreciated and underrepresented. “Everyone knows about bees, but there are others.”
Meanwhile, the Insect Lore Europe team told us that caterpillars have false legs at the rear of their bodies which they use for grasping or as “suction cups.”
Insect Lore Europe shared a few more interesting facts about caterpillars and the Painted Lady butterflies that they specialize in with Bored Panda.
- “Caterpillars spin silk using tiny spinnerets located on the lower part of the head. When you see a caterpillar moving its head from side to side, it is usually spinning silk.
- A caterpillar's first meal is often its own eggshell. The outer shell of the egg is rich in protein and gives them a nutritious boost.
- One caterpillar has as many as 4,000 muscles in its body—with 248 in its head alone.
- Painted Lady butterflies can cover a lot of ground—up to 100 miles per day during their migration.
- A Painted Lady butterfly is capable of reaching speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour.
- Butterflies taste with their feet!”