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A puss moth caterpillar hatches from its egg

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A tiny head chews its way out of a pinhead-sized, orange-brown egg. As it climbs out, it appears longer and longer, including pink tails with extendable flagella, long claspers that ward off predators. How did it fit inside that egg?

This is a puss moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula), a tiny woodland creature found in the Palearctic realm. It’s around the size of a rice grain, less than 8 millimeters (5/16ths of an inch) long. When it’s fully grown, it will be around 80 millimetres or just over 3 inches long.

puss moth eggs
puss moth caterpillar
The time lapse footage was filmed and shared on YouTube by nature photographer David Weiller. More from Butterfly Conservation:

“A large white or greyish-white furry moth, the Puss moth is named after the cat-like appearance of the adult. The female is generally larger and also differs in having a grey hindwing and sometimes forewing.

“Eggs are laid singly, or in twos or threes on the uppersides of leaves. When disturbed and as a warning, the striking caterpillars will raise their head and wave twin tails, which have pinkish extendable flagellae. They may even squirt formic acid at the attacker if the defence warning is unheeded.”

Photo by Pekka Raukko

“Caterpillars can be found from July to September and will often strip entire stems of leaves before pupating in a hard cocoon spun on a tree trunk or post, incorporating wood chewed by the larva.

“Here they will overwinter before emerging as an adult the following spring.”

John Walters filmed a puss moth hatching from its cocoon in 2007, via WildlifeWatchUK:

Observe more caterpillars and hatching videos on TKSST:
Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis in HD
• The Lappet Moth Caterpillar
• Monkey slug caterpillar or hairy tarantula spider?
• The Jewel Caterpillar (Minacraga argentata) of Ecuador
• Metamorphosis, Earth Touch‘s iPhone film about butterflies
• The flannel moth caterpillar is furry, brightly colored, & venomous
The spectacular birth of baby slugs

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