The response to my post about the Mad Hatterpillar of Australia was amazing! Apparently animals that wear their former heads as hats are fascinating.
I mentioned that some North American caterpillars also build themselves hats out of discarded heads, and I’ve managed to find some cool photos of those as wel. Harrisimemna trisignata is a distant relative of the Australian species.
A commenter described it as “falling out of the ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down.” That seems a little harsh, but I guess hatters gonna hat. It certainly is true that the zombie heads have a bit of a sinister look.
This caterpillar also has some strange behavior to go with its strange head capsule hoarding. The always awesome Weird Bug Lady is studying this species, and thinks it is a bird dropping mimic. Complete with chunks and white streaks mimicking uric acid in a bird flop. They also have some strange behavior:
“They shake! They shake when I open the container, when I breathe on them, when I talk to them, when I touch them, when I look at them the wrong way. I can just imagine a potential parasitoid, like a tiny wasp, trying to land on that caterpillar… between the shaking and the head capsule whipping, I doubt it would stick around.”
Here, have a look:
The caterpillars chew into wood to pupate (!), and they roll the wood up into neat little balls and then throw them (!!). The adults of this moth look rather like they are carrying a QR code.