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Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths which are members of the order Lepidoptera. Caterpillars may be tiny insect larvae but they are voracious feeders, making them common plant pests. There are about many different types of caterpillars which vary in color, size, and diet.
See the fact file below for more information on the caterpillars or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Caterpillar worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The term caterpillar comes from Middle English words “catirpel” and “catirpeller” which are derived from the Old French word “catepelose” in which “cat” means cat and “pelose” means hairy.
- Caterpillar is often used to refer to butterfly and moth larvae, but it is also used to refer to sawfly larva.
- There are approximately 180,000 various types of caterpillars.
- Caterpillars have soft bodies.
- Caterpillars vary in size and can be as small as 1 mm up to 14 cm.
- Like most insects, caterpillars have three body parts; head, thorax, and abdomen.
- Caterpillars have an external covering called an exoskeleton.
- A caterpillar has six pairs of small eyes known called stemmata which are arranged in a semicircle.
- Their eyes are able to differentiate light and dark, but not detect images.
- A caterpillar will move its head from side to side at times to judge depth and distance.
- Caterpillars have tiny hairs all over their bodies called setae.
- A caterpillar breathes through small holes called spiracles.
- They are able to sense touch through their setae and antennae.
- A caterpillar uses three pairs of legs located on its thoracic segments which it retains when it turns into an adult.
- Caterpillars have more than six legs but most of those are false legs called prolegs.
- They may have up to five pairs of prolegs.
- Prolegs help caterpillars cling and climb onto plants.
- Caterpillars have up to 4,000 muscles in its soft body.
- A caterpillar’s head has 248 muscles alone!
- Most caterpillar species are herbivorous, meaning they feed on plants only.
- Some species are insectivores and cannibals.
- Species like horn moths feed on horns.
- Most caterpillars are considered very destructive agricultural pests.
- Moth caterpillar species, in particular, are known to cause extreme damage to agricultural produce. Moths, however, are considered harmless.
- It is important for caterpillars to eat a lot so they can sustain their growth into the next stage which is adulthood.
- They are dubbed “eating machines” because all they do is eat.
- Malnourished caterpillars have a hard time transitioning into adulthood, and even if they do, they may be unable to produce eggs.
- In its lifetime, caterpillars eat about 27,000 times their body weight.
- Within a few weeks, a caterpillar will grow exponentially.
- Caterpillars molt many times as it grows bigger and weighs more.
- The stage between molts is called an instar.
- Most caterpillars go through 5 to 6 instars before becoming a pupa.
- Caterpillars can produce silk using their salivary glands located along the sides of their mouths.
- Some species like eastern tent caterpillars make silk tents in which they live together.
- Gypsy moth caterpillars construct a silken thread from which they can “balloon” from treetops and scatter onto their surroundings.
- Caterpillars also use silk when they become a pupa, which they use to build a cocoon or suspend a chrysalis.
- Caterpillars are rich in protein and are often prey to bigger insects and animals, and so they use different self-defense techniques.
- Predators of caterpillars include humans, mammals, birds, ladybugs, ants, wasps, and other caterpillars.
- Most caterpillars use thanatosis, also known as playing dead.
- Some caterpillars use mimicry for self-defense: black swallowtails appear like bird droppings and some inchworms look like twigs.
- Other species turn themselves into super bright colors so they appear toxic.
- The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar shows large eyespots to discourage birds from eating them.
- A swallowtail caterpillar uses a defensive stink gland behind its head called an osmeterium.
- The lifespan of a caterpillar is two to four weeks.
- The most popular caterpillar in North America is the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly.
- Many species of caterpillars are nocturnal.
- When a caterpillar hatches from its egg, it will eat the rest of its shell.
- Caterpillars consume the outer layer of the egg called the chorion.
- Caterpillars walk in a wave-like motion.
- Some host plants of caterpillars produce toxic compounds in order to discourage herbivores from chewing their leaves.
- Many caterpillars can adapt to those toxins in their bodies, and use these toxic compounds for self-defense against predators. A great example of this is the monarch caterpillar and its host plant, the milkweed.
- Caterpillar hair can be a cause of health problems to humans. Skin rashes, infections and other diseases in the bones and eyes can be caused when humans get in contact with caterpillars.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about caterpillars across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Caterpillar worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the caterpillars which are the larvae of butterflies and moths which are members of the order Lepidoptera. Caterpillars may be tiny insect larvae but they are voracious feeders, making them common plant pests. There are about many different types of caterpillars which vary in color, size, and diet.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Caterpillar Facts
- Color The Caterpillar
- Physical Description
- What’s The Word?
- Complete Cycle
- True Or False
- Cocoon Chronicles
- Caterpillar Word Search
- Different Insects
- Knowledge Review
- The Caterpillar Story
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Link will appear as Caterpillar Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, March 18, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.