Curious Caterpillars

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence and Alice surveyed the jungle. In every direction she could see mushrooms, each with their own caterpillar inhabitant. Each caterpillar was different, there were spiky ones and stripy ones, and one that looked like a fluffy little moustache.

Alice does not initially like Caterpillar when they first meet because when he talks, he does so in short sentences and does not give clear answers. He is also rather offended when Alice complains about being (just) three inches tall.

“Well, I would like to be a LITTLE larger,” said Alice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”
“It is a very good height indeed!” said the Caterpillar angrily, rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).

Caterpillars are the larval (or second)-stage of a butterfly or moth’s life-cycle. Most caterpillars are hard to spot due to their size or colouration offering camouflage. But some can be found on their food plants or when they are fully grown and looking for a suitable place to pupate. Caterpillars are also incredibly diverse, each using different survival techniques. Some, like the Garden Tiger (or woolly bear), are covered in hairs which cause irritation. Others, like footman moths, take in toxins from their food plant (in this case lichens) so they taste disgusting to any predators. Elephant hawk-moth caterpillars have large “eyes” on their body to confuse and ward off any potential predators. The caterpillars in the museum collection on display show off this diverse colouration and size.

Read about how Alice meets the Caterpillar and discover more about them as part of our Alice’s Adventures in a Museum Wonderland story.