Caterpillars of these giant silk moth eat for all life phases, as the adult lacks mouth parts and a digestive system. The cat goes through 5 instar stages that take about a week each. The last 3 instars have these intriguing, colored knobs that are orange, yellow, and blue with small black spines.
After it achieves a gigantic puffy green body, it crawls away to pupate appearing as a big dead leaf. That's how it spends most of the year, in a dormant state including overwintering. The adult cecropia moth emerges with the sole purpose to reproduce. If nothing eats her, she may live one to two weeks.
The Cecropia caterpillar tops the footwear fashion chart. All caterpillars have "shoes" called crochets that have tiny barbs that work like velcro to hold onto branches. Like adult insects, caterpillars have 6 legs - little wimpy things near their head that don't help them move around much. Those crochets are attached to thick fake "prolegs" that are the fat stubby things you see here.
Caterpillars are exclusively larvae of moths and butterflies and have 2 to 5 prolegs. Some other insect larvae are look-alikes, particularly sawfly wasps, but also caddisflies, beetles, and flies. But only caterpillars have shoes. This is a Hyalophora cecropia caterpillar feeding on Juglans nigra in August. I took this shot on a ladder.
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