Limacodidae (cup moths or Chinese junk caterpillars) Nolidae (gumleaf skeletonisers)
Arctiidae (tiger moths) Anthelidae (white stemmed gum moth) Eupterotidae (bag shelter moths) Lymantriidae, the tussock moths (mistletoe brown-tail moth and the white cedar moth) Notodontidae (bag shelter moth and processionary caterpillars)
Butterflies & moth families contain several species of caterpillars that are armed with stinging hairs on their bodies. The caterpillar body is for most cases defenceless so these hairs or spines serve as a great defence against predators such as birds or reptiles.
The different types of caterpillars
The different types of caterpillar can have different types of hairs and different types of structures within those types. The first is ‘irritating’ hairs where the caterpillar produces a venom from a gland in the body and pumps the venom through the hollow spine of the hair. Once the hair breaks the venom is released – the toxin is known to be a mixture of histamines.
The second is more or less a mechanical non venomous hair type. The hairs themselves are easily broken or dislodged from the body of the caterpillar when contact is made, becoming stuck to the contact surface. The barbs on the hairs ‘hook’ onto the skin or the clothing. The hairs can also dislodge naturally as the caterpillar makes contact with it’s surrounding environment and become airborne where they can attach to clothing on lines or land on surfaces both horizontal and vertical. The hairs can remain in the skins or cocoons of the moth or butterfly and can cause irritation long after the life-cycle has moved on.
Found in the bush or in trees, anywhere there is foliage the hairy caterpillar is found where human habit. Cocoons and larva skins can be found in wood piles or under leaf litter. Often the hairy caterpillar will form long processions and can be found in large groups.
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