The first question that came to our minds when we saw the picture was, “What in the world is that?”
We soon got our answer – ‘Monster’ caterpillars. That’s right. Right here. In Singapore.
Monster caterpillars in Singapore
We first got a glimpse of these giant creatures through Facebook user Christopher Yap Hon Weng’s post a few weeks back:
PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CHRISTOPHER YAP HON WENG
He apparently saw them on a tree opposite Block 366 Yishun Ring Road!
According to Stomp, these green creepy crawlies are apparently 10cm in length and 2cm in width, and it turns out, they are caterpillars of the Atlas moth.
As we all know, caterpillars eventually turn into pupae, which then emerge from their cocoons as moths or butterflies.
Here is some fascinating trivia on Atlas moths:
- Atlas moths are among the largest in the world.
- Strangely, despite its large size, an adult Atlas moth does not have a mouth, living off fat storage built up from when it was a caterpillar.
- They have a very short lifespan. They spend about a month in their cocoons, but once they emerge, adult Atlas moths only live for about two weeks, with their chief activities being mating and reproducing.
Concerns over monster caterpillars in Singapore
These creatures have since then mysteriously vanished from the scene, but that didn’t stop us from wondering about them.
Our mind was naturally flooded with questions about these green giants. Rubiah Binte Ismail, Curator of Invertebrates, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, was kind enough to answer our many questions:
Are these caterpillars harmful or poisonous in any way, especially to kids?
“These caterpillars are not harmful or poisonous. The white powder and “spikes” are just to fool predators like birds into thinking that they are poisonous and are harmful as they are armed with the “spikes”. The “spikes” are actually soft.”
Are they new to Singapore or have they always been around?
“They are found in Southeast Asia, including Singapore. They are a seasonal species, and used to be more common in the 70’s and 80’s. They are getting rarer now due to the use of pesticide to control mosquitoes.”
Is there any danger of home infestation?
“We have not come across any record of this species infesting homes. Usually these caterpillars will stay hidden in the foliage of the trees that they are feeding from and will only move away when there are no more leaves to feed from the tree. This is the time you will see them exposed as they are trying to find a new tree to feed on the leaves.”
Should children be warned about going near them? Should any precautions be taken?
“Since these caterpillars are harmless, there is no reason why children should not take a closer look at them but do caution them not to touch the caterpillars. Although this species is harmless, children might not know which caterpillar can be touched and which to avoid, so best not to touch any caterpillars that they see or find.”
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