by Andrea Kautz
In addition to being attractively colored, caterpillars have some interesting behaviors to observe as well. For example, caterpillars in the genus Datana have a defensive behavior of rearing up both the front and back ends of their body instantly upon being disturbed.
Since they are often found in aggregations, this simultaneous movement can be quite startling to a potential predator looking for a snack. These caterpillars of Drexel’s Datana (Datana drexelii) were found on the Black Birch Trail at Powdermill Nature Reserve (the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History), feeding on witch hazel. They were photographed before and after being disturbed. Fascinating!
Andrea Kautz is a research entomologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working for the museum.