Weird Caterpillars

One of the many interesting insects we’ve been coming across lately might look a lot like a caterpillar but it actually belongs to the same order as ants, bees and wasps (Hymenoptera). This cute little guy is a sawfly, called so because of the female’s practice of using her saw-like ovipositor to deposit eggs in the edges of leaves and stems. When the eggs hatch a multitude of tiny larvae emerge and feast on the surrounding plant foliage.

Not a caterpillar; a larval sawfly posing for the camera

So how can you tell if you have a caterpillar or a sawfly larva? There are a few features you can look for right away: sawfly larvae are hairless and always have more than five prolegs, as opposed to moth and butterfly larvae which always have five or less. They also have a more distinctly rounded head capsule and a single eye spot, giving them a strangely innocent appearance. Sawfly larvae also come in a variety of colours and patterns from pink to bright green to pale yellow.

Adult sawflies look very similar to wasps but have a thick attachment between their thorax and abdomen instead of the thin wasp waist seen in ants and wasps. So next time you see a caterpillar or wasp take a closer look (maybe not too close) because you might actually be looking at a sawfly.

-Jon

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