This caterpillar screams whenever it’s been attacked by a predator as self defense.

Can you guess the most noisiest insect? If you’re guessing the likes of cicadas, crickets, and buzzing flies, you’re right; but as usual, nature seem to always pull off a surprise. You probably didn’t guess of butterflies and moths — and even less, caterpillars. But there’s an exception, this caterpillar will scream to deter it’s predators off. Hear it for yourself.

Related media: Here’s what a predator hears when it tries to bite this caterpillar


The Little Roaring Bug

The life of a caterpillar before it enters it’s cocoon mostly consists of eating as much as it can while avoiding being eaten itself. To stay alive, this caterpillar’s defense mechanism is a scream.

It sounds a little like this: “ssss- kih-kih-kih.

You’re wondering how much sound a caterpillar could make, but the Nessus sphinx hawkmoth caterpillar is the exceptional creature we’re talking about. Whenever these mysterious little bugs are provoked, they react differently than you’d expect; they counterattack their predators by rearing back and letting out a “mighty scream,” not that loud, but well, as loud as they can muster.

Obviously, the sound it give off  is really bizarre, why not. It’s a hissing steep inhale followed by a percussive report of scratchy burping sounds, which isn’t loud enough to catch your attention if you happen to be a passerby. What’s really surprising about this caterpillar is the fact that this “screaming” isn’t made with air coming forth it’s mouth, like we said, how bizarre — because, this isn’t how it breathes, either.


You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar

The hawkmoth caterpillar makes this really creepy sound whenever it’s under attack or harassed by a predator — whether by a hungry bird or a boom mic. This indicates that the noise it makes is like some sort of defense mechanism. Perhaps, they intend on freaking out any predators who plan on having them as a snack by hissing at them that they have to leave them alone — how strange but it seems like an effective defensive tactic.

However, insects such as grasshoppers and cicadas make their sound by rubbing or vibrating their rigid exoskeletons. But the Nessus sphinx hawkmoth caterpillar scream with their mouths. The trait of making sounds have never been observed in caterpillars before, but unlike most sounds of vertebrates, this caterpillar’s sound has nothing to do with it’s respiratory system. Instead, these caterpillars are pulling air into their guts, then expelling it through their mouths. No respiratory organs.


The Pesky Cacophony

The Nessus sphinx hawkmoth might be the only known caterpillar to literally yell at anyone who attacks it, but it’s not the only one that can make a noise when it wants. It’s the fourth caterpillar that’s been discovered with this noise-making ability. Other caterpillars use other noise-making methods, though, and they do so for different reasons.

Other insects like the North American silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus), produce airborne sounds, resembling ‘clicks,’ with their mandibles by snapping their mouthparts together; 

And the masked birch caterpillar (Drepana arcuata), is known to rub hairs on their rear ends against a leaf to create vibrations — making a drumming sound with (you didn’t guess it) it’s anus — which summons other caterpillars to help build a protective next of silk.

Well, that gives a whole new meaning to buttressing your defenses.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Wed, Feb 13, 2019.


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