Last updated on February 5th, 2022
If you think that being a teacher for primary school children is a simple task, you are mistaken! Although it is quite a rewarding experience, there are days when questions asked by the children can leave you quite surprised.
For example, during a recent field trip, my second graders were taken by a myriad of birds on the farm we visited. We saw lots of farm birds, and they were quick to notice that the birds, along with their bird feed, would hunt for bugs.
When we returned to school, the children asked me if there were other animals that ate bugs like caterpillars, because according to the children, these bugs were quite revolting. It got me thinking about what animals eat caterpillars.
Animals that eat caterpillars:
- Paper Wasps
- Praying Mantis
- Blue Jays
- Rose Breasted Grosbeaks
List of animals that eat caterpillars:
Cardinals are known to be hunter birds, and they are known to look for insects and bugs.
If you have observed the movement of caterpillars, you will have seen that they are quite slow, making them ideal for fast-moving birds.
They can easily hunt the caterpillars and are also known to take these bugs back to their nestlings.
According to experts, caterpillars are a significant food source for cardinals during the breeding season.
Cardinals usually look for food like fruits, but they need to supplement their need for extra protein and fat, which caterpillars supply during the breeding season.
This is why you will find that caterpillars form nearly three-quarters of the diet of cardinals during the breeding season.
2. Paper Wasps
Paper wasps can prove to be an excellent way of controlling pests like caterpillars in your garden.
If you have observed an infestation of butterfly caterpillars and see paper wasps in your garden, it is often a good idea not to disturb this natural food chain.
Caterpillars are rich in protein, and most animals like wasps are drawn towards these creatures because of the protein content of the larvae.
If you see paper wasps, do not worry, as the stings of these insects are very mild; instead, they consume the caterpillars and protect your garden.
You will find that certain colonies of paper wasps can consume nearly two thousand caterpillars. This makes these predators ideal to protect your garden against caterpillars.
Finches are unique birds because their diet changes as they mature. Usually, finches prefer to consume seeds, fruits, and berries.
But when they are young, finches usually eat insects, especially caterpillars. Nestling finches usually eat caterpillars as these are high in protein and easy to digest.
The mother finch is often carrying caterpillars in her beak to the nest to feed her hungry nestlings.
In the natural process of things, young finches are fed caterpillars to help them become healthier.
Caterpillars are incredibly nutritious, making this ideal for young finches. As the birds grow and their digestive system matures, they try new food like pumpkin seeds as well as fruits like oranges.
4. Praying Mantis
Praying mantises are known to be unique creatures and excellent hunters. These creatures can be only the length of your finger, but they can even hunt the toxic monarch caterpillar.
This caterpillar will transform into the monarch butterfly, but it is known to wreak havoc on farms and plantations before it does.
However, the praying mantis is a natural predator of these caterpillars and is known to hunt and consume these bugs.
One of the reasons why praying mantises hunt caterpillars is because these creatures favor soft-bodied bugs.
Caterpillars top the list of soft-bodied bugs making these the natural prey for praying mantises.
Just like the praying mantises will snack on caterpillars, they are a few creatures that will prey on praying mantises. You can read more here.
5. Blue Jays
Blue jays are unique birds because they will eat almost anything. If you think that these birds eat only seeds, fruits, and vegetables, you are mistaken.
Insects form an essential part of the diet of blue jays. Being an omnivore, this bird is known to hunt insects like caterpillars.
One of the reasons why blue jays are drawn towards caterpillars is the high-fat content of these insects.
Birds spend a significant number of calories in flying and scavenging for food. This calorie loss needs to be replenished, and one of the easiest ways would be to consume food with high-fat content.
6. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
The rose-breasted grosbeaks are unique birds with solid beaks designed to help them munch on more robust insects.
Their powerful beaks can easily break up the exoskeleton of most insects. Compared to more robust, full-grown insects, the soft-bodied caterpillar does not stand a chance against the rose-breasted grosbeaks.
Being an excellent hunter, the rose-breasted grosbeaks can quickly identify the caterpillars and consume this whole.
Moreover, a full-bodied insect like a caterpillar is also a favorite meal of the rose-breasted grosbeaks.
Thus, whether or not other foods like seeds and grubs are available, if a rose-breasted grosbeak sees a caterpillar, it will stalk it and consume it.
Frogs are excellent hunters and are known to consume all types of insects. You must have observed the darting movement of the tongue of the frogs.
Frogs are known to be opportunistic hunters, and hence, they will look for the best prey they can find.
When it comes to caterpillars, the slow movement of these creatures makes it ideal for frogs to hunt these bugs.
Frogs have wide mouths, and you will find that even more giant caterpillars can easily fit into the mouths of frogs.
Moreover, frogs are nocturnal and can quickly identify the caterpillars at night.
When it comes to chickadees, you will find that these birds, like cardinals, have a dual eating style.
While studying chickadees, I came across new information about these birds.
Chickadees are friendly to gardeners as a single clutch of young chickadees can consume nearly six thousand to seven thousand caterpillars, which works out to 370-400 caterpillars every day for 16-18 days.
A unique feature of chickadees is that caterpillars form an essential part of the diet of nestlings.
Like cardinals, young chickadees also need to have a healthy supply of protein and fat.
Caterpillars form one of the most accessible sources of both protein and fat. Moreover, caterpillars are easy to digest, making them ideal for chickadee nestlings.
Lizards are known to be predators and excellent hunters. You will often find lizards hunting for insects and caterpillars.
The slow-moving caterpillar is an ideal prey for a lizard. When a lizard sees a caterpillar, it can quickly grab hold of its prey and consume it whole.
Even your common house lizard loves to eat caterpillars. If you are a home gardener and see a lizard lurking near your house plants, you should not try to shoo it away.
In most cases, the lizard lurks near the plants because it has caught sight of a caterpillar, which you did not see during the day.
The lizard is a natural predator and can help keep your garden free of caterpillars.
Nuthatches are primarily insectivores and are known to consume all types of insects. But when it comes to caterpillars, nuthatches seem to love the creatures.
The bird also consumes seeds like sunflower seeds, but only when other food is scarce. Nuthatches are excellent hunters and can quickly identify insects and caterpillars.
In summer, the bird needs to store fat and consume a significant amount of insects because, in winter, it will have to survive on an alternative food source.
Therefore in summer, you will find nuthatches consuming only insects, especially caterpillars.
You will also find that nuthatches often carry the caterpillars to their nests since these insects are ideal food for young nuthatches.
Nuthatches are also known for consuming almonds as well.
The common house sparrow is known to eat several types of insects, and among them, caterpillars are the foremost.
These slow-moving insects are a favorite snack of the sparrow!
You might have seen a sparrow with a caterpillar hanging from its beak and must have been reminded of the famous proverb ‘the early bird catches the worm’.
Caterpillars feature among the favorite food of sparrows because you can easily find these insects in gardens and farmlands.
Moreover, sparrows are also found in abundance in places with greenery. These are the favorite hunting grounds for sparrows looking for insects and caterpillars.
Sparrows also carry caterpillars to their nests to feed young nestlings as these are healthy for the growth of the young sparrows.
Spiders are excellent predators and can camouflage themselves. These creatures can hunt both small and big caterpillars.
When you think of spiders, you usually think of them like insects, but it is also a predator that can feed on caterpillars.
Some spiders weave webs where if a caterpillar gets stuck, it becomes food for spiders. Other spiders wait for smaller caterpillars and hunt these at night.
These spiders are nocturnal and can camouflage themselves, making it easier to hunt the slow-moving caterpillars, even during the night.
Some of the more giant spiders can even hunt and kill monarch caterpillars. Farmers often mention that spiders can even help save crops from caterpillars because they are excellent hunters.
Pigeons often eat caterpillars, although these insects do not form the primary food source for them.
Pigeons usually prefer seeds and grains like rice, but caterpillars form an excellent source of protein for most birds.
You will find pigeons consuming caterpillars usually when other food sources are scarce.
Additionally, you will also find pigeons feeding caterpillars to their young ones primarily because it is an excellent source of energy.
However, unlike other birds, pigeons do not hunt for caterpillars. Pigeons are not predatory by nature, which is why they will not go looking for caterpillars.
Instead, they will eat the insects as an alternative source of food whenever they come across them.