Stinging Nettle Slug Caterpillar (Cup Moth, Limacodidae)

by Sinobug (itchydogimages) on Flickr.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China

Cup Moth larvae are often highly ornamented and brightly colored. Two main types can be distinguished: larvae armed with rows of protuberances bearing stinging spines called nettle caterpillars, or non-spined forms where the surface of the larvae may by completely smooth, called gelatin or just slug caterpillars. The larvae of this family bear no prolegs on their abdominal segments. The larva attaches itself to the substrate by means of an adhesive ventral surface. The movement is like a slug hence their generic name.

A stinging slug caterpillar (like this one) generally bears warning colouration and stinging hairs. These hairs can inject a venom from poison sacs carried at their base that are used as defensive weapons. Reactions can range from a mild itching to a very painful sting.

Globally, the connection between adult cup moths and their caterpillars remains sketchy. Although many, and increasingly more, of the moths are being identified, their life cycles have not been studied or recorded. This is particularly apparent regionally. As fascinating as these caterpillars are, few can be linked to their night-flying mature forms. Hence, should you be browsing my Flickr set of Limacodid Caterpillars, the majority are generically named and only tentatively identified.

See posts on my tumblr blog, SINOBUG, featuring these magnificent caterpillars HERE.

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