This Euproctis species caterpillar belong to Lymantriidae family was feeding on leaves on cucumber tree (Averrhoea bilimbi).Lymantriidae is a family of moths with about 350 known genera and over 2,500 known species found all over the world, in every continent except Antarctica. They are particularly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America; one estimate lists 258 species in Madagascar alone. Apart from oceanic islands, notable places that do not host Lymantriids include New Zealand, the Antilles, and New Caledonia.
Adult moths of this family do not feed. They usually have muted colours (browns and greys), although some are white, and tend to be very hairy. Some females are flightless, and some have reduced wings. Usually the females have a large tuft at the end of the abdomen. The males, at least, have tympanal organs. They are mostly nocturnal.
The larvae are also hairy, often with hairs packed in tufts, and in many species the hairs break off very easily and are extremely irritating to the skin (especially members of the genus Euproctis to which this caterpillar belongs). This highly effective defence serves the moth throughout its life cycle as the hairs are incorporated into the cocoon, from where they are collected and stored by the emerging adult female at the tip of the abdomen and used to camouflage and protect the eggs as they are laid. In others, the eggs are covered by a froth that soon hardens, or are camouflaged by material the female collects and sticks to them (Schaefer, 1989). In the larvae of some species, hairs are gathered in dense tufts along the back and this gives them the common name of tussocks or tussock moths.
Lymantria means “defiler”, and several species are important defoliators of forest trees, including the gypsy moth Lymantria dispar, the douglas-fir tussock moth Orgyia pseudotsugata, and the Nun Moth Lymantria monacha. They tend to have broader host plant ranges than most Lepidoptera. Most feed on trees and shrubs, but some are known from vines, herbs, grasses and lichens.
As I started taking photographs of this caterpillar it fell down from the stem. But the caterpillar did not land in the ground. It had a life support in the form of a slender silk which it had anchored to the stem.
Trying to photograph hanging caterpillar which is wriggling to reach the stem is the toughest job I can think off. focusing was very very tricky. I some how managed to get 2 good shots of the caterpillar midair out of 30 which were out of focus. All the shots were taken Canon EOS 5D mark II using Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro & Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash.
EXIF info – Aperture : ƒ/11 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Taken : 13 June, 2009 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4′ 2.1612″ N 74° 59′ 44.570760233918″ E | Shutter speed : 1/200s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.