Snakes are known for their varied diets, which typically include small mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds. However, some snake species have developed a taste for something different: caterpillars.
It is important to note that not all snakes eat caterpillars. In general, most types of snakes do not eat caterpillars, as they prefer prey that is larger and more substantial. However, garter snakes have been known to eat caterpillars, as they are slow and easier to catch than some other prey.
Do Snakes Eat Caterpillars
Snakes are known for their diverse diets, which can range from small mammals to eggs, and even other reptiles.
But when it comes to insects, especially caterpillars, not all snakes show an interest in consuming them.
However, there are a few snake species that do eat caterpillars.
The garter snake, smooth green snake, and rough green snake are the known species that consume caterpillars.
These snakes likely began eating caterpillars to supplement their diet during times when other food sources were scarce.
Caterpillars are commonly found in their natural habitats, making them an easily accessible source of nutrition.
Caterpillars can be a target for snakes due to their relatively slow movement, making it easier for a snake to catch and consume them compared to faster-moving prey.
Some snakes have even been observed eating caterpillars that can be poisonous to humans, showing their ability to tolerate or resist being affected by their venom.
These snake species that do eat caterpillars are opportunistic predators, meaning they take whatever prey is available in their environment.
They can adjust their diet based on what they find or what is abundant at a particular time.
Some interesting points about the relationship between snakes and caterpillars:
- While a few snake species eat caterpillars, it is not a common food source for most types of snakes.
- Snakes may occasionally eat caterpillars if other food sources are scarce or unavailable.
- Some snakes can consume poisonous caterpillars without being affected by their venom.
Types of Snakes That Eat Caterpillars
Caterpillars are not a primary food source for most snakes, but a few species have been known to include them in their diet.
In this section, we will explore the types of snakes that eat caterpillars and how this dietary choice may benefit them.
The garter snake is one of the known snake species to consume caterpillars. Typically, garter snakes feed on a diverse range of prey, including small mammals, frogs, and insects.
However, they have been observed to eat caterpillars when other food sources are scarce or when the opportunity arises. Eating caterpillars may be a way for garter snakes to supplement their diet during challenging times.
Smooth Green Snake
Another snake species that feeds on caterpillars is the smooth green snake.
Found mainly in North America, this non-venomous snake prefers a diet of insects, like ants, spineless caterpillars, spiders, moths, beetle larvae, and crickets.
As a small snake that spends its time in grassy areas, the smooth green snake takes advantage of the abundant insect population in its habitat, and caterpillars become a natural part of its varied diet. (source)
Rough Green Snake
The rough green snake is another species known to consume caterpillars.
It is similar in size and behavior to the smooth green snake, making insects an appealing option for its diet.
Like the smooth green snake, rough green snakes may take advantage of caterpillars as an easy-to-capture and nutritious food source in their environment.
How Snakes Hunt and Eat Caterpillars
When it comes to hunting caterpillars, these snakes rely on their keen senses, specifically their sense of smell and touch.
They use their forked tongues to pick up chemical cues in the environment, helping them locate their prey.
These snakes often hunt in areas with vegetation, such as trees and shrubs, where caterpillars are more likely to be found.
Once the snake has located a caterpillar, it strikes quickly and with precision. After immobilizing the caterpillar using their specialized jaws, they proceed to swallow their prey whole.
The snake’s flexible jaw allows it to unhinge and open wide enough to consume the caterpillar.
During the process of swallowing the caterpillar, the snake’s muscles work in a coordinated manner to push the prey down its digestive tract.
The snake’s saliva also contains enzymes that help break down the caterpillar’s body for easier digestion.
After the caterpillar is fully swallowed, the snake may rest for a while to digest its meal.
Types of Caterpillars Snakes Eat
Snakes are known for their carnivorous diet and can eat a variety of prey, including caterpillars. However, not all caterpillars are on the menu for snakes.
Here are some of the types of caterpillars that snakes eat:
Hawk Moth Caterpillars:
Snake species such as the garter snake, have been known to eat hawk moth caterpillars.
These caterpillars have a unique defense mechanism where they mimic the appearance of a small snake, which may deter predators.
However, some snakes are not fooled and will still eat them.
Cabbage White Caterpillars
Cabbage white caterpillars are a common pest in vegetable gardens, and they are also a food source for some species of snakes.
These caterpillars have a green body with yellow stripes and can be found feeding on cabbage, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables.
Tomato hornworms are another common garden pest that some species of snakes will eat.
These caterpillars have bright green bodies and distinctive horns on their rear end.
Armyworms are a type of caterpillar that can cause significant damage to crops. However, they are also a food source for some species of snakes, including the rough green snake.
It is important to note that not all species of snakes will eat caterpillars, and some may have preferences for certain types of prey.
Additionally, some caterpillars may be toxic to snakes, so it is important to be aware of what types of caterpillars are present in the area where snakes are living or being kept in captivity.
Types of Caterpillars Snakes Do Not Eat
While some species of snakes do eat caterpillars, not all types of caterpillars are on the menu for these reptiles. Here are some types of caterpillars that snakes do not eat:
Many species of caterpillars are covered in hair, which can be irritating to the skin and digestive system of snakes.
Some examples of hairy caterpillars include the puss caterpillar and the io moth caterpillar.
Some caterpillars have stinging hairs or spines that can cause pain and inflammation if touched. Snakes may avoid these caterpillars to avoid getting hurt.
Examples of stinging caterpillars include the saddleback caterpillar and the hickory tussock moth caterpillar.
Certain species of caterpillars are poisonous and can cause serious harm or even death if ingested. Snakes may avoid these caterpillars to avoid getting sick or dying.
Examples of poisonous caterpillars include the buck moth caterpillar and the monkey slug caterpillar.
Other Types of Insects Eaten by Snakes
The types of insects consumed by snakes vary from one species to another, depending on their habitats and particular preferences.
Some common insects that snakes eat include caterpillars, crickets, ants, grasshoppers, and spiders, among others.
Caterpillars are not a primary food source for many snake species, but a few snake species, such as garter snakes, smooth green snakes, and rough green snakes, are known to eat them occasionally.
These snakes are believed to have adapted to caterpillar consumption as a way to supplement their diet during times when other food sources are scarce.
In addition to caterpillars, snakes are known to consume other insects such as:
- Crickets: These are a popular food source for many snake species, especially small and younger snakes.
- Ants: Some snake species eat ants, particularly in situations where their usual prey is not available.
- Grasshoppers: Grasshoppers make up a considerable portion of several snake species’ diets, being an abundant and nutritious food source.
- Spiders: Although not insects, spiders are also consumed by some snakes for their high protein content and availability.