Processional caterpillars and societal pressures

ImageThere is a fascinating phenomenon that one observes in the Kruger Park and Marloth Park during this time of year. I would never have believed it unless I witnessed it myself. It is uncanny and extraordinary at the same time. It is an evolutionary masterpiece, where the benefits are obvious but the mechanism is rather puzzling.

Littered all over the place are what seem to be long pieces of grey rope. Some are in uniform lines, others form elaborate two dimensional shapes. Upon closer inspection you notice that the piece of rope is etching its’ way across the road. The rope consists of small grey caterpillars that follow one another in lines that stretch several metres over roads, around trees and over obstacles like car tyres. Their similarity to inanimate objects like rope and sticks, as well as their striking resemblance to smaller snakes makes them less likely to be eaten by predators. One could just imagine what would happen if caterpillar eating birds wised up to this charade. It would be an eat-all-you-can buffet where the food is served on a living conveyer belt.

As uncanny as this is, one could draw similarities to human society. I liken this long grey line of caterpillars to congested roads and highways, where vehicles sit bumper to bumper on route to and from places of employment. We don’t have to worry about predators in quite the same way, we do however find ourselves doing this to make some sort of living. In fact chances are, our fellow caterpillars (motorists) find our presence inconvenient and often go to great lengths to inform us of this.

The caterpillar has grand ambitions to turn into a flying insect and take to the skies, whereas our ambitions include such things as pay increases, career advancement and material gains. Our invertebrate subjects fly off into the sunset following their cycle, and yet we never make it to our cocoons. Our procession is a lifelong one filled with many trials and tribulations.



3 thoughts on “Processional caterpillars and societal pressures

  1. June says:

    Processional caterpillars – collective decisions FORAGING SUCCESS in anti- predator defence – GUINNESS

    • Thank you for your comment and the interest that you have shown. I was quite flabbergasted at the sight of it. Unfortunately a vast number of them are killed on the roads. But they show such resilience. Even though their fallen comrades block their procession, they just regroup and continue on an alternative route.

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