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CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: litter moth caterpillars!

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: A surprising find in a local birds nest, hundreds of hungry Idia litter moth caterpillars!

With spring in full swing, we're bringing back Caterpillar of the Week! Each week we'll feature an amazing native caterpillar being reared here at The Caterpillar Lab in Keene, NH!

This week we'd like to introduce you to Idia caterpillars, also known as litter moth caterpillars. They are in the family Erebidae, and are one of the smaller "macro" moths (the group that includes everything from the giant luna and cecropia, right down to the gray geometrid inchworm moths and owlets)

Smaller caterpillars tend to have their spotlight stolen by their more showy cousins (I'm looking at you Hickory Horned Devil!), but even the smallest and least colorful of caterpillars can be beautiful up close and provide us with a plethora of interesting natural history stories.

This Idia caterpillar is one of hundreds which made their home inside a vacant nest (possibly crow) that was found on the ground and generously donated to the lab. They are detritophagous, so they will eat dead and decaying organic matter such as leaves and other plants collected by the nests creator. There is still very little known about the life and habits of an Idia caterpillar, though. Do they specifically target bird/mammal nests for their eggs? If so, how do they find/choose these nests? These are just some questions we aim to figure out here at The Caterpillar Lab, and it was all thanks to a local citizen's curiosity about the squiggling creatures inside a mass of leaves and twigs. So stay curious, because we can only learn by asking questions!

Stay tuned this week for more on the life of an Idia as we take a closer look at their messy home and life cycle! - Jace

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