19 Jun 2018 The Processionary Caterpillar Moth – by Ranger Andre De Jager
It’s the little things in life…
Driving around in the bush every day gives you the opportunity to see a few interesting things.
Sometimes these particular things or beings would remind us of some childhood memories.
For example, some of my childhood games would consist of the popular past time, “Follow The Leader”. To this day, I can not understand what the objective for this game was. But before I start heading too far down memory lane, let me tell you more about what sparked this memory, the Processionary Moth Caterpillars.
These members of the Thaumetopoeidae insect family, use a “follow the leader” method of movement or protection against predatory animals seeking to find a quick meal. The head-to-toe positions of these caterpillars give it an accumulative impressive size, as they attempt to imitate the stretched out figure of snakes crossing the open road.
The best time of the year to view these master manipulators of the insect family, would be in the colder months in South Africa (Autumn/Winter). They are easily seen crossing the open roads as they attempt to move from one feeding tree or plant source to another. After the line has crossed a thin, slightly translucent line can be seen left behind by the leader of the group. This silky road is mainly produced by the leader to use as a helping tool for traction by the rest of the line that follows after him.
Processionary caterpillars feeding on a tree, in a group
The most common plant species to find them on would be Wild Pear (Dombeya sp.) and CrossBerry (Grewia sp.) trees. As a rule of thumb it is easy to understand that no caterpillar with long hair should be touched. Luckily the Processionary Moth Caterpillars are part of the lesser toxic family. But I always think it is best to have someone else, other than yourself, find out!!
Processionary Caterpillar’s feeding during the winter month’s.
Keep an eye out for possible sightings of these hairy critters on your next visit to the bush, either in the tree’s or on the ground.
By Andre de Jager
Information on the “Thaumetopoeidae” Insect family: Field Guide to Insects of Southern Africa