We all love our butterflies because of their beauty and the services they perform as pollinators. Even though a given butterfly is unlikely to be an efficient pollinator, the sheer number of butterflies and moths result in a significant pollinator contribution.
So it may be surprising to learn that caterpillars are a star for a very different reason: “caterpillars transfer more energy from plants to other animals than all other herbivores combined“
Chewing insects, such as caterpillars, are at a higher risk of exposure to toxic chemicals because of their feeding method.
Caterpillars are also prone to specialize to a single host plant, so preserving these plants is critical to their survival.
The top 5 genera identified by Douglas W. Tallamy et al are:
- Quercus (Oaks)
- Salix (Willows)
- Prunus (Cherries, Plums, Peaches)
- Populus (Poplars, Aspens, Cottonwoods)