Upon laying eyes on the peacock butterfly caterpillar for the first time, we were instantly transported to the early 2000s, where goth and punk rock clothing styles consumed the internet with the rise of bands of the same style. This caterpillar seems to be stuck in that time period, and this article will touch upon the biological aspects of this radical caterpillar.
The title says it all, but the picture says more. The glossy black head and velvet body, as well as the spiky bristles resemble the studded clothing one could, and perhaps can still, see fans of ’emo’ bands wear. However, these spikes are not just a fashion statement. The bristles protect them from predators, as they are quite sharp to the touch. That being said, the bristles are not actually poisonous (as many other caterpillars with bristles are venomous) and handling them is not dangerous, per say. That is not to say that the sharp spines might not be uncomfortable to the touch or that allergic reactions cannot occur via skin-to-skin contact.
In actual fact, peacock caterpillars have several methods of protecting themselves against predators. One such method that peacock caterpillars employ to discourage predators from eating them is assembling and wriggling their bodies as one giant black mass. Another is curling up their bodies and playing dead. Perhaps the most punk-rock defense mechanism of them all is their ability to vomit a green substance to scare off their attackers (though their spiky bristles are a close contender).
Between hatching and reaching their pupal stage, peacock caterpillars grow at a rapid pace and can reach a length of 1.65-inches. This quick growth is due to their gluttonous eating habits. And what do they eat, one may wonder? Peacock caterpillars feed exclusively on stinging nettles, which are those spiky leaves most of us were told as children to avoid as they sting you upon touching them, hence the name. Now, if eating stinging nettles is not the most punk thing you could possibly do, then we do not know what is.
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To conclude, the peacock butterfly caterpillar is clearly one punk-rock rebel and definitely hangs out with the cool kids of the caterpillar kingdom. We hope that our readers enjoyed this offbeat article!