On the forest floor

When I saw this hairy little beast crawling across the floor of the jungle, my first question was “What will it grow into?” Mandar said “I just about know butterflies. I can’t help you with caterpillars.” Indeed, there seems to be no easy way to relate a caterpillar to the adult. All I can say is that a caterpillar is more likely to grow into a moth than a butterfly, simply because there are 10 times more moths in the world than butterflies. Once you notice that a caterpillar is hairy the chance that it will grow into a moth increases even further. Caterpillars of butterflies are rarely hairy.

When I was a child our garden was full of hairy caterpillars which would irritate the skin awfully if you brushed against it. I must have done this several times, because I now have a strong aversion to touching caterpillars. I watched this guy make its way across the forest floor, and thought of all the leaves it was not eating. Ten minutes later I saw the white moth which you see in the photo above, and began to wonder whether this is what the caterpillar would grow into. This is not just idle speculation. The photo seems to be of a tussock moth (subfamily Lymantriinae), whose caterpillars are often hairy and cause itches.