Meet Spike. Spike is a spectacular cup moth caterpillar with a multitude of very nasty venomous spines (yes, spike did, more on that later). When I first met Spike I was excited to get a really nice closeup of its gorgeous colours as you can see.
As I was processing my images though, I noticed something strange in the neighborhood of its big spikes. When I looked at what I’d shot it became obvious this one was about to molt into a shiny new version of itself. In this first image you can see clearly the spines still under wraps — it’s the image that really piqued my curiosity.
My first thought was I should go back and wait until it molted and get a series of shots documenting the process. I’ve shot a series before (they eat the molt by the way) some of which you can see here, so when I discovered the caterpillar had no immediate intention of fulfilling my wishes I decided to do a before and after instead. Luckily (for me) it was still on the same small tree early the next day and so here are a selection of comparison shots, before and after a molt of Calcarifera ordinata.
Now it’s nearly impossible to see the face of a slug caterpillar, possibly because they’re quite shy but also because they are built with it tucked in underneath. I’m fairly sure it’s because they’re really ticklish. Whatever. I needed this shot since I was determined to thoroughly document this specimen. The day before I got some great shots of the little face smiling out at me, no worries, in the bag. Onto the after photos. Nice big, fresh, shiny spines. With my right hand holding the camera I had to wrangle Spike on its leaf with my bare left hand. I somehow managed to fold the tip of the leaf until the face was visible which all went swimmingly… until I let go and Spike sprang back onto my middle finger. Can confirm the sting is very stingery. Was it worth it? Look at its cute little T-Rex arms!