CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: Watch out, Christian Dior and Stella McCartney! If Camouflaged Loopers (Synchlora aerata) were invited to Paris Fashion Week, they might steal your thunder. These caterpillars decorate themselves with exquisite outfits they craft from their food plants.
In Caterpillars of Eastern North America, author David Wagner calls the camouflaged looper "a Mardi Gras caterpillar that is out of costume only after a molt." Before I came to The Caterpillar Lab, I ogled the page with four unique camouflaged looper photos, longing to see their masquerade in person. Now I'm lucky enough to see them every day!
Some caterpillars are camouflaged to blend in with ONE specific plant that they live on and eat. Camouflaged loopers eat flowers, and have no such limitation. While their appetite is typically for goldenrod and daisy fleabane, the loopers can eat a variety of other plants, from blue vervain to zinnias. How do they disguise themselves on such a diverse rainbow of flowers? By acting as the fashionistas of the caterpillar world.
As a camouflaged looper munches away at her flowers, she nibbles off petals and occasionally other plant parts. She coats the tip of the petal with silk from her spinnerets (just under her mouth). Then, holding the petal in her mouth, she stretches around and sticks it to her back. Using her spinnerets once again, she adds silk to hold the petal in place. After a few hours of hard work--presto! She's ready for the runway... or at least the next aster.
--Liz Kautz, Education Director at The Caterpillar Lab
"Caterpillar of the Week" will highlight a different species we grow in The Caterpillar Lab each week. We hope you will enjoy meeting the caterpillars of New England!
More information on Synchlora aerata on BugGuide here: http://bugguide.net/node/view/27013