What Do Baby Caterpillars Look Like?

When caterpillars first hatch out of their eggs, they’re considered baby caterpillars as they’re much smaller than a caterpillar that is near to pupation. But what do baby caterpillars look like? Are they just smaller versions of a normal-sized caterpillar?

Baby caterpillars have soft, squishy cylindrical segmented bodies. They have a head, thorax, and abdomen like other insects. Ultimately, they look like tiny caterpillars.

Young baby caterpillars have squishy soft, segmented cylindrical bodies. Their bodies are divided into the head, thorax, and abdomen, like all other insects.

A caterpillar has 5, 6, or 7 pairs of eyes arranged semi-circularly. These eyes are different from adult butterfly eyes and are called stemmata or ocelli. These ocelli are only used to distinguish light from dark and cannot make out any images clearly.

Their bodies are covered with tiny hair called setae. They also have mandibles through which they eat and a pair of antennae. The antennae help a caterpillar move around and sense food.

A baby caterpillar also has a pair of 6 legs like other insects, but they include excess legs called prolegs, which aren’t actual legs but are rather fleshy stumps that help the caterpillar grip onto various surfaces; prolegs are technically fake legs. The true legs are on their thorax, and the prolegs are on their abdomen.

Do Baby Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies?

Baby caterpillars are too little to pupate into a butterfly just yet. A caterpillar needs to eat and grow throughout its life as a caterpillar before pupation. A caterpillar’s main task is to eat as much as it can and store enough food as possible before it’s ready to pupate.

The time a caterpillar takes to get ready to pupate varies from species to species. 

Many caterpillar species grow big enough and get ready to pupate in a couple of weeks after being hatched from an egg.

For example, the Painted Lady butterfly caterpillar takes four weeks to grow large enough to then pupate. The Fox Moth caterpillar takes a full winter to grow and get ready and pupates in spring, and it stays as a caterpillar for 11 months, from June to April. 

Some caterpillar species can even stay as caterpillars for multiple years, such as the Goat Moth caterpillar that remains a caterpillar for five years inside a tree trunk.

To turn into a butterfly, a caterpillar needs to grow very quickly. They keep on eating a lot, but their growth varies in species. Some can grow to double in size in a matter of days.

As caterpillars have exoskeletons, when they’ve grown big enough, their skins stretch and reach a limit. To reach further growth, the caterpillar will shed its old skin and replace it with a new one that allows for more growth.

Most species of caterpillars may change skin four times. 

Most species grow so fast because they’re vulnerable to predators, so they have shorter times to get ready for pupation to survive without being eaten. As a baby caterpillar gets nearer its time to pupate, it sheds its skin multiple times to allow more growth, and each time it sheds skin, the caterpillar’s colour, patterns, amount of hair, and shape change.

Do Baby Caterpillars Turn Into Moths?

Yes, baby caterpillars can eventually turn into moths or butterflies. Many people, incorrectly, assume that caterpillars only become butterflies. A caterpillar will make a cocoon to turn into a moth or a chrysalis to turn into a butterfly.

What is the Lifecycle of a Caterpillar?

A baby caterpillar can turn into a moth or butterfly. The difference between the two caterpillars is that a moth caterpillar is usually hairy or spiky, and butterfly caterpillars are smooth-bodied.

The lifecycle of a caterpillar consists of four stages: Egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

The process is called metamorphosis, and it is of two types. The type of metamorphosis that involves caterpillars is complete metamorphosis.

Complete metamorphosis is when an insect has a larva that looks nothing like the adult, and in incomplete metamorphosis, the baby insect looks like a mini version of the adult. 

Egg Stage

The lifecycle of a caterpillar starts when a butterfly lays oval or round eggs. The shapes vary according to the species.

Most butterflies and moths lay their eggs where there’s enough food for the caterpillar to eat so it can eat right after it’s born. Hundreds of eggs are laid, but only a few tend to survive.

Larva Stage 

Once the baby caterpillar hatches from its egg, it starts eating and spends most of its time eating and growing.

It eats a lot and eats everything, even the leaf or flower it hatched on. They keep growing and shedding their skin and have to store enough food to be ready for pupation. They eat at such a rate that they can ruin entire plants leading many gardeners to look for ways to get rid of them.

Pupa Stage

Once the caterpillar is all done with eating, growing, and storing enough food in its body, it pupates. A caterpillar weaves a silk cocoon around its body or forms a chrysalis and encloses in it to pupate.

A moth caterpillar makes a silk cocoon for pupation, and a butterfly caterpillar makes a chrysalis. Inside, the caterpillar rearranges its limbs and sprouts new body parts of that of a butterfly.

The metamorphosis can either take certain weeks or months.

Adult Stage 

The final stage ends with a beautiful butterfly or a fluffy moth coming out from its cocoon or chrysalis. It takes a little time to stretch its new limbs before flying away. Yes, moths do come from caterpillars too!

Summary

Baby caterpillars are squishy, soft, segmented insects whose only job is to eat as much as they can and store food in their bodies which will be utilized in pupation as during pupation they can’t move or eat.

When caterpillars have eaten a lot and have grown to double their size, they get ready to pupate and become butterflies or moths. 

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