Western Cape, South Africa
|Aggregation of Cape lappet moth caterpillars|
We found these amazing caterpillars during one of our rest stops along the road from Knysna to Cape Town, they were at the base of a gum tree. Some were on their own but others were in a cluster with their heads down like in the picture above.
I have sought expert help for their identification and thanks to Marin Villet, Steve Woodhall, Kristin Williams and John Joannou, I now know that it could be one of two species: Eutricha capensis (Linnaeus) or E. bifascia (Walker). The genus was formerly Pachypasa. See below.
|Photo courtesy of John Joannou|
They belong to the Family Lasiocampidae which has many examples of caterpillar sociality - some are tent caterpillars. And this might explain my observed agregations. Their larvae have been found feeding on 24 species, indigenous and exotic, including various acacias, pines, and eucalyptus. See http://www.afromoths.net/species/show/48754
All this makes kind of sense because at the base of that Eucalyptus there was a lot of their frass. See below.
|Frass from the Cape lappet moth caterpillars|
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