Hey Buggy Joe!! What is it?? - Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars

posted by Ron Wilson -

The colorful late instar milkweed tussock moth caterpillars are actually advertising their chemical defense strategy.  Like monarch caterpillars and many other milkweed-herbivorous insects, the tussock moth caterpillars dodge predation by accumulating in their flesh the alkaloid toxins, called cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), which are concentrated in the milkweed's sap.  As with other insects that feed on milkweeds, including monarchs, late instar tussock moth caterpillars advertise their toxic character through splashy coloration; a twist to the old axiom that "you are what you eat."

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Ron Wilson

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