Parachuting behavior and predation by ants in the nettle caterpillar, Scopelodes contracta

Kazuo Yamazaki

Osaka City Institute of Public Health and Environmental Sciences, 8-34 Tojo-cho, Tennoji, Osaka 543-0026, Japan


This paper documents the bizarre descending behavior from the tree crown to the ground of the larvae of the moth, Scopelodes contracta Walker (Lepidoptera: Limacodidae) and the interaction of the larva with predatory ants. S. contracta larvae infest leaves of many tree species in urban areas and orchards in Japan. Mature larvae and leaves without basal leaf parts were found under trees of four species infested with S. contracta larvae in Osaka, Japan. Individual larvae riding on leaves were observed falling from tree crowns to the ground. Many S. contracta cocoons were found in the soil below the trees two weeks after the observed parachuting. These observations indicate that S. contracta larvae parachuted to the ground where they spin their cocoons in the soil. When a larva that had just parachuted down was returned to an arboreal twig, the larva repeated the parachuting behavior. This parachuting behavior appears to be adaptive, because larvae can descend to the ground safely and with low energy cost. Worker ants of Tetramorium tsushimae Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Pristomyrmex punctatus Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) occasionally attacked larvae on the ground before they had a chance to burrow in the soil.

Keywords: descending behavior, larval movement, pupation site, slug caterpillar


Received: 14 January 2009 | Accepted: 11 February 2009 | Published: 27 April 2010

ISSN: 1536-2442 | Volume 10, Number 39

Yamazaki K. 2010. Parachuting behavior and predation by ants in the nettle caterpillar, Scopelodes contracta. 10pp. Journal of Insect Science 10:39, available online:

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