Tree Sharpening Caterpillars

~30mm long | January 5, 2013 | Panga Ecological Reserve, Minas Gerais, Brazil

~30mm long | January 5, 2013 | Panga Ecological Reserve, Minas Gerais, Brazil

What appears to be a flower here is actually a group of caterpillars working their way down a sapling trunk.

They look like they could do a decent job sharpening a pencil, about the same width as this tree(?) trunk.

Side view | Trunk ~5mm wide

Side view | Trunk ~5mm wide

Despite the black background, this was taken a few hours before sunset. At the time there was probably a few feet of the trunk left. I marked the location and returned after dark. I found no trace of the trunk or the caterpillars. They apparently ate the whole tree.

I know there are defoliating caterpillars. I know there are wood boring caterpillars. I never imagined there are caterpillars that consume an entire tree though. That’s assuming they eat leaves, which I didn’t observe.

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2 Responses to Tree Sharpening Caterpillars

  1. Luísa says:

    That’s wonderful! I had never seen this behaviour before. I can’t tell what this caterpillars are, but the family is probably Noctuidae. They look a little like Dypterygia from Janzen’s site, but might be something totally different…
    Anyway, it’s really an amazing reccord!!

  2. I am so happy I stumbled across your site. I, too, am a “Citizen Scientist”. For several years I have been photographing an insect that collects ant body parts. I call her “The Ant Collector”.
    She tosses ant heads,legs,thoraxes,and wings onto her back which is like velcro. Every ant part stays in place. In my photos the heads sparkle like jewels.She doesn’t mind being studied and photographed. I have handled her balanced on the tip of my finger and placed her on a magnifying glass.
    She needs to be identified. Can you help me?

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