A caterpillar is the larval form of a lepidopteran (a member of the insect order comprising butterflies and moths). Caterpillars have long segmented bodies and many sets of "legs". They eat leaves voraciously, grow rapidly, shed their skins generally four or five times, and eventually pupate into an adult form. Caterpillars have six true legs (being hexapods) on the thorax, up to four pairs of prolegs on the middle segments of the abdomen, and sometimes a single pair of prolegs on the last abdominal segment. The sawfly larva (Hymenoptera) superficially resembles a caterpillar, but can usually be distinguished because the caterpillar has a gap between true legs and prolegs, whereas the sawfly does not. Another difference is that lepidopteran caterpillars have crochets or hooks on the prolegs.













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The gap between the prolegs and the true legs can vary from a slight gap in some species to a large gap in families such as the geometridae. The geometrids, also known as inchworms or loopers, are so named because of the way they locomote, appearing to measure the earth (the word 'geometrid' means 'earth-measurer' in Greek). Caterpillars do not breathe through their mouths. Air enters their bodies through a series of small tubules along the sides of their thorax and abdomen. These tubules are called 'spiracles', and inside the body they connect together into a network of airtubes or 'tracheae'.

Images 1 Through 3 Are From The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Images 4 Through 16 Are From The U.S.D.A.











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