Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging

CabbageMoth Caterpillar

Cabbage Moth Caterpillar
Image Graham Calow

The European cabbage moth, Mammestra brassicae, has a series of 8 hairs on its thorax that are sensitive to the sound of an approaching wasp. The wasp vibrates the air when it beats is wings, those vibrations cause the hairs to vibrate and a signal is sent to the nervous system. Most caterpillars will freeze motionless in respsonse the sound. About 10 percent will display a characteristic “squirming” behavior. Caterpillars that display these behaviors are less likely to suffer an attack. The hairs can be removed experimentally. Caterpillars with the hairs removed no longer respond to wasp sounds and are much more likely to be attacked by wasps.

Jiirgen Tautz and Hubert Markl. 1978. Caterpillars Detect Flying Wasps by Hairs Sensitive to Airborne Vibration. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 4, 101-110.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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