Picture Challenge #15

It’s not uncommon in the Outback to see these rough bag-like structures hanging in trees, vaguely similar to a silkworm’s cocoon, but much larger, and often irregular in shape. Who can tell us something about what they contain?

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to Picture Challenge #15

  1. Anne says:

    I think they’re caterpillars, but can’t quite remember. Used to see them all through the bush in NSW around Hillston.

  2. dazzlerplus says:

    Well, Anne, in the absence of any other opinions, I hereby declare you the winner. You’re absolutely right! These strange bags made out of leaf fragments and grass, tied together with many metres of a silk-like filament, are the home of caterpillars with the scientific name ochrogaster lunifer, and common name processionary caterpillar. One bag may contain hundreds of caterpillars. They are covered in fine hairs, which can be a serious irritant to humans, so don’t make good pets. Even when the bags have been abandoned, they should not be handled without protection.

    When the caterpillars come out of their bag, they travel in a continuous line, one behind the other, hence the name “processionary”. In due course, they turn into “bag-shelter” moths.

    For more information, see the August issue (#52) of the Bobby Dazzler Newsletter, which will include a picture of a “procession”. If you don’t currently receive the Newsletter, simply send a request to brennan@bba.com.au.

  3. dazzlerplus says:

    Reader Rose (who is a Bobby Dazzler alumnus) poses the question: “Is it true that if you get the processionary caterpillars to form a circle, they just keep going around in a circle forever until they conk out?”

    There may be readers with a sadistic streak who have tried this. Of course, it raises the issue of whether the leading caterpillar can be easily persuaded to change into being a follower.

    If you have information on these issues, please let us know.

  4. dazzlerplus says:

    Reader Raylene, who lives in the Outback and certainly knows what she’s talking about, writes:

    “These caterpillars are very hairy. Many people are allergic to them and come up in big welts all over that are really itchy. Children tend to be hit the most and worst. You can get a reaction from just sitting under a tree they inhabit or anywhere they have been. They leave hairs behind and on contact with skin cause the allergic reactions.

    If a reaction occurs, having a warm/hot shower is the worst thing as it really fires up the reaction even more. This causes even greater itchiness and larger/redder welts, so the cooler the better to get the hair off… and don’t wear the same clothes again until washed thoroughly. Mild anti-allergy drugs help if able to be taken, but some people may need Phenergan.

    Fortunately the problem is usually short-lived and gone within a 24hr period. It can be a scary thing though when it is seen for the first time, particularly for young parents with a child having a first reaction.”

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