Caterpillar Has The Cutest Tiny Penguins On His Back

Like a cozy winter sweater 🐧

In the winter, there’s nothing better than staying warm in a cozy sweater with a penguin, snowflake or reindeer motif on it. But one fashionable caterpillar has everyone beat. 

Look closely at the forest tent caterpillar, and you’ll notice a line of dancing penguins running down his back. From far away, the pattern looks like a simple white stripe. But the tent caterpillar’s markings are so adorable Grandma could have knitted them herself.

A forest tent caterpillar on a tree

Unfortunately, by the time the forest tent caterpillars hatch in the early spring, their penguin sweaters are out of fashion. These 2-inch caterpillars are often found in big groups all across North America, clustering together to deter predators.

As their name suggests, they spin webbed “tents” of silk in the crooks of branches or on bark, like big hammocks, where they hang out during the day.

At night, the caterpillars forage for food, snacking on their host tree’s leaves. While large groups of these caterpillars can defoliate trees, healthy trees can recover pretty quickly, regrowing new sets of leaves the very same season.

Once the caterpillars have eaten their fill, they find a folded leaf to tuck themselves into and spin a cocoon, emerging as a fluffy moth in the early summer.

Forest tent caterpillar with penguins on its back
Wikimedia Commons/Judy Gallagher

So next time you see one of these little guys, stop for a moment to take a closer look and you might just get an adorable penguin surprise.