Why did the caterpillar cross the road?

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Raymond and I have been busy as bees in Queensborough and environs over the last couple of days, running errands and getting useful things done hither and yon. Which has required much riding of the roads – not a hardship when the weather is as glorious as it has been: warm sunshine that makes the fall colours look exceedingly beautiful.

But we’ve been struck by an animal-kingdom phenomenon that we’ve witnessed everywhere on those roads: fuzzy caterpillars (black and orange, the kind you used to let crawl along your fingers when you were a kid) all over the place. Hundreds of them! All beetling across to the other side of the road as fast as their little tiny legs will carry them. (I took a video of the one featured in this photo, though here in my near-internet-free zone I can’t post it – but man, was he ever trucking along!)

What are they doing? Why are they all on the move at once? What the heck is the lure of the other side of the road? And does this happen every year, or is it a cyclical phenomenon? I can’t say as we noticed it last fall, for instance.

One thing I can tell you for sure: Raymond’s getting really good at swerving to avoid them. It turns out he has a soft spot for the little fellows, just as (as I’ve previously reported) he does for the turtles that also seem to be drawn to the asphalt.

But what is it with these Hastings County critters and their wanderlust?

9 thoughts on “Why did the caterpillar cross the road?

  1. Well, Inspector Page couldn’t resist this one. Turns out there is no conspiracy, though. In fact, it’s all about autumn, and a sure sign of what comes afterward: the cute little creatures are just looking for a warm place to curl up for the winter. According to the Horticulture Home Pest News on the Iowa State University site — yes, I read them all — “they are only scurrying to find a sheltered location under dead plant debris, etc., where they will spend the winter as a larva. In the spring, they will feed briefly before changing into a cocoon and eventually a moth. Eggs laid by the female moths start the cycle over again.”
    http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2005/11-9/caterpillar.html

    They do seem so cuddly, yes?Hey, here’s an idea: Why don’t Raymond and you invite some into your home for the winter?

    Cheers!

    • Ahem! Good info, Jill – though one wonders why the warm place the caterpillars are seeking is always on the other side of the road as opposed to the side they started from – but as for inviting them in, well, we have quite enough animal-kingdom life here at the Manse via our overly friendly ladybug population, thank you very much!

      • Funny . . . I have a lot of ladybugs in my house, too. I catch as many as possible in the spring and release them. As for why the caterpillars are crossing the road, simple: to get to the other side, of course! (Smiles)

  2. Pingback: Why did the caterpillar cross the road? | Jillian Page

  3. Delightful article!

    Being no authority on caterpillars (DO like the fuzzy ones!), but having perhaps some related and relevant information about worms, here’s my two cents’ worth.

    Many, many years ago when cars ran on leaded gas and long before Al Gore invented the Internet, a friend and I were driving through a summer rain in the middle of the night, far out in the country. As it happens, zillions (at least two zillion) of earthworms were crossing the highway for miles on end, from left to right. Every time lightning flashed they all got totally discombobulated, reared up on their little wormy behinds, turned around and went backwards for a moment or two, then continued on their left-to-right journey across the highway. Unfortunately, many did not live to tell the tale. Wide tires on that Mustang… A Shelby, in case anyone’s interested. Like, way cool!

    anyway, he and I have discussed this on occasion over the years and and have agreed that our perception of this phenomenon had nothing to do with various substances we may have smoked or ingested in the course of the evening. No, it was real and unexplainable to this day.

    Worms cross from left to right in rainstorms, and caterpillars seem to have a similar compulsion. One of the mysteries of the universe!

    • Okay, now that’s quite the story! I wonder if it was simply a case of all conditions being just right (temperature of road and air, time of year, time of worms’ life cycle, rainstorm, etc.) for the worms all to be on the move at the same time – and you and your friend just happening to be in the right place at the right time. Serendipitous!

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