The affectionately named ‘itchy grub’ are the offspring of the Bag-Shelter Moth or Ochragaster Lunifer. These caterpillars eat the acacia trees till they’re full and then begin their search together for a place to pupate. The increase of these caterpillars in Queensland has meant larger groupings and processions.
Myron Zalucki from the University of Queensland says the increase in number is significant:
"It is an outbreak. These processions occur every year, but when you get lots of them, people tend to notice,"
Though Zalucki isn’t precisely sure why there are so many caterpillars around Queensland, he suspects it had something to do with the conditions when they hatched back in November.
The Caterpillar is a social insect and loves to form chains, so that the hairs on their body and tails are touching.
"They stick together as a group, they're head-to-tail, and they stay together."
These furry looking caterpillars are quite harmless most of the time, though the hairs on their bodies can leave rashes and give some people respiratory problems.
Image: Wikimedia commons
"If you look at the abdomen, the back end of them, you'll see these very dark patches," Professor Zalucki said.
"They're chock-a-block full of tiny little hairs. These can be averted and basically will stick into the skin, eyes and mouths of anything that attempts to eat them."
The outbreak of caterpillars now may mean more moths later on in the year. However, according to Zalucki parasitic flies like the Tachinid could reduce numbers:
"If you think of the movie Aliens, the tachinids develop inside the caterpillar and will eventually kill it.”
Perhaps not as dramatic as an alien bursting from your chest, but still quite freaky.
Header: Wikimedia Commons