As being isolated from the rest of the world, Hawaii is home to a variety of creatures not seen anywhere else. But, maybe the most fascinating of these unique Hawaiian animals are the carnivorous caterpillars. These caterpillars are larval stages of moths in the genus Eupithecia.
There are some types of caterpillars which are carnivorous in nature. However, only 1 % of all caterpillars eat meat. They generally eat soft flesh insects, but they can even attack predatory arthropods like parasitoids. Even though they are most common in Hawaii and Australia, there are several species living in various parts of the world with slightly different characteristics.
The adult stage looks innocent; feeding on flowers and seeds like any other normal adult butterfly or moth. Seems no different than any average moth. But don’t let this adult stage fool you. 18 of the 20 native species of Hawaiian caterpillars eat other insects, and they are effective little predators. When it hunts, it often uses camouflage to ambush unsuspecting insects and may even cut channels into leaves to lure the bugs within striking range.
Once their prey comes within its range and touches the sensitive hairs of the body, the caterpillar strikes. Snapping its body upwards or downwards, it grabs the helpless prey. Then, it feasts.
They begin their life by eating some plant types, but as they grow they start to eat certain types of insects. One of the most interesting things about them is the way they kill in order to arrange for food. Some species use seductive smells or camouflage in order to trap their prey.
The Hawaiian Islands have allowed insects to develop unique habits, because the islands are isolated and originally didn’t have any predators, like ants or wasps. Ambush carnivorous caterpillars provide a good example of a feeding behavior unique to Hawaiian Islands.
Some species of carnivorous caterpillars in Hawaii disguise themselves as the bark of a tree in order to hunt for prey. In Australia, the killer caterpillars specifically eat green tree ants and their food. On the other hand, certain Denmark species live together with ants underground.
It is very unusual behavior for caterpillars to hunt for meat, because we know them to grow as butterflies and moths. But this kind of caterpillar is very hard to find, and its species is slowly on the path of extinction because of its complex life cycle.
Watch the video to see these sneaky caterpillars in action!