Why do caterpillars spin silk?
  
Don Herbison-Evans,
( donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


Caterpillars of Teia anartoides escaping by dropping on silk threads, or maybe preparing to balloon away on the wind

Caterpillar of Tinea pellionella
carrying his silken bag

Caterpillars use silk for many purposes:

  • Some drop on a silk thread when threatened, and climb back up it when the danger is past.

  • Some spin a loose silk bundle, and sail away ("ballooning") on it in the wind to disperse.

  • Some join leaves with silk to form a larval shelter.

  • Some spin a protective silken bag in which to live.

  • Some spin a protective cocoon around themselves in which to pupate.

  • Others spin a girdle around the middle to hold the pupa onto a twig.


    Pupa of Papilio aegeus
    held by a silken girdle
  • Link to
    Frequently Asked Questions about Caterpillars

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    (updated 8 January 2010, 29 January 2014)