Living With Processionary Caterpillars


Bag Shelter Moth Processionary Caterpillars
Photo: Christopher Watson

Caterpillars of the Australian bag shelter moth, Ochrogaster lunifer, feed at night and spend the day in shelters of silk, debris and fecal matter.  The caterpillars feed on leaves from Acacia, Eucalyptus and Corymbia. If the caterpillars defoliate their host, they wander in search of more food. The caterpillars secrete silk and a pheromone to produce a trail. Caterpillars will follow the trail and will travel in a head to tail procession of caterpillars.

The caterpillars produce a prodigious number of urticating hairs estimated at 2.0 to 2.5 million setae in a fully developed caterpillar. The defensive hairs contain an anticoagulant that is toxic to vertebrate predators. Contact with the caterpillars can cause skin irritation. The hairs persist on the cast cuticles of the caterpillars and can be distributed over a wide area when nests are blown apart by wind. If consumed by pregnant mares, the urticating hairs can cause equine amnionitis and fetal loss. The hairs can work their way into the placenta, damage the fetus and result abortion of the fetus.

L. E. PERKINS, M. P. ZALUCKI, N. R. PERKINS, A. J. CAWDELL-SMITH, K. H. TODHUNTER, W. L. BRYDEN and B. W. CRIBB. The urticating setae of Ochrogaster lunifer, an Australian processionary caterpillar of veterinary importance. Medical and Veterinary Entomology (2016) 30, 241–245.
doi: 10.1111/mve.12156

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.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Caterpillar Blogging. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Living With Processionary Caterpillars

  1. Pingback: Living With Processionary Caterpillars – Entomo Planet

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