Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Allergic Reaction to Suspense

If you’re the kind of person that has to peek under the Christmas tree before the day has arrived, go ahead and skip to the end. If you read the last page of a novel first or if you fast forward through the movie because you have to know “what is in the box!”, go ahead and skip to the end. I wouldn't want the suspense to kill you.

What is the fine specimen we have before us? It is a caterpillar entering the pupal stage before it becomes a butterfly. It has crawled up under a metal guardrail on a desolate road in the Everglades. Here it remains suspended, awaiting a transformative process that will entirely change its way of life. But which species will it become?

Brightly colored insects, reptiles and snakes are usually warning signs for predators to stay away. The caterpillars of this specie feed on passion flowers which cause them to be toxic.

While some predators ignore the warnings and suffer the consequences, others have adapted to the poison and can enjoy what most others can not. Will the fly on the bottom right of the caterpillar be one of those predators?

If the color wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the well-fortified exterior should repel the hungriest of predators. Surprisingly, the fierce looking spines are innocuous, flexible ornamentation that rounds out the repulsive costume.

Within a few days, the metamorphic process will conclude, the pupal casing will cleave and a beautiful butterfly will fly off, but which species?

If you skipped ahead from the opening paragraph, you’ve ruined it for everyone and now I won’t tell you what it is. But hey, what’s the fun of me telling you what is wrapped up in the package when it’s more fun to find out yourself. 


  1. It is in fact the caterpillar of a Gulf Fritillary.

  2. Hey um is there a type of catipillar that is all red with straight lines of white and a thin line of black next to the white line/and has black spikes in it

  3. Hey Jungle Pete. I stumbled upon your blog while trying to identify a caterpillar I encountered this morning. You seem pretty knowledgeable about our South Florida inhabitants. I was hoping you could help me out. Here is a photo: http://instagram.com/p/Yk4jvovgfh/

  4. The caterpillar in the link you provided Tricia is (or will be) a Polka-Dot Wasp Moth. Very cool.