Meet the "Mad Hatterpillar"

This is Uraba lugens, a caterpillar that wears a bunch of its old heads on top of its current head like the world's most ridiculously macabre hat. The part of this photo where the otherwise horizontal caterpillar goes vertical? That's a pyramid of exoskeleton head capsules, stacked in descending order from smallest to largest.

The venerable Bug Girl has some better shots of this phenomenon at her blog, along with lots of great information explaining how the heck Uraba lugens ends up making this questionable fashion statement. She also offers this helpful advice:

If you do happen to see one of these, you should not touch it! Apparently these caterpillars are covered with highly itchy and irritating spines–which seems to make their chapeau of old heads a bit redundant.

Image: Uraba lugens, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dhobern's photostream


  1. “If you do happen to see one of these, you should not touch it!”

    That’s some pretty good general caterpillar advice to follow. I used to love playing with them as a kid, but after reading about just how many are actually venomous, I see them in a new light.

  2. There’s a similar caterpillar around here. Fuzzy and spikey, but no hat. Local people call them “asps” for some reason. If you brush up against one you will get a little oval ring on your skin that looks like ringworm, though it itches way more. 

    1. Megalopyge opercularis. Exactly the insect that led me to reevaluate my feelings towards caterpillars, explained above.

  3. The purpose is to give him a better view.  The top head reports what it sees to the head below, and it’s relayed on down to the current head.

  4. I think we are over looking a big question here.
    the caterpillar can do without a head? Huh?

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