Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar

Curetis acuta

Last updated: November 12, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit A-Z-Animals.com

Create a silk bed that they use to attach themselves to leaves

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Lepidoptera
Family
Lycaenidae
Genus
Curetis
Scientific Name
Curetis acuta

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Conservation Status

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Locations

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Locations

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Facts

Name Of Young
Larvae (caterpillar)
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Create a silk bed that they use to attach themselves to leaves
Biggest Threat
Predatrs
Most Distinctive Feature
Twin periscopes that release tentacles organs to scare off prey
Distinctive Feature
Sexually dimorphic adults with silvery underwings
Other Name(s)
Sunbeams
Wingspan
Approximately 2 inches
Incubation Period
2-3 weeks
Average Spawn Size
100-300
Habitat
Tropical and subtropical forests
Predators
Birds, spiders, lizards
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Favorite Food
Foliage, nectar, water
Common Name
Angled sunbeam
Special Features
Silver under wings signal other sunbeams and act as a form of camouflage
Number Of Species
1
Location
Southeast Asia
Nesting Location
Leaves

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Orange
  • Silver
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
2 to 5 weeks (caterpillar), 1 month (adult)
Length
1 inch
Age of Sexual Maturity
After pupating
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Summary

Famous for their wild defense tactic, angled sunbeam caterpillars belong to the gossamer wing butterfly family. When threatened, the caterpillars twirl around tentacle organs located in the two periscopes on their hind end. These tentacles can scare off predators while the caterpillars are busy eating or preparing to pupate before transforming into adult butterflies. As butterflies, the sexually dimorphic adults feature silvery ventral wings that provide camouflage, help them signal other butterflies, and lower their body temperature.   

5 Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Facts

  • Angled sunbeam caterpillars telescope the twin tentacle organs located in their hind end at predators when threatened. 
  • According to some researchers, it’s periscopes may secrete chemical deterrents to ward off predators in addition to serving as a surprising physical alarm. 
  • During their final instar, angled sunbeam caterpillars attach themselves to leaves via a spun silk bed and a thin belt. 
  • Upon maturing, they metamorphose into sexually dimorphic butterflies, with the males looking black and orange and the females looking black and white.
  • The silver ventral wings of the adult angled sunbeams help them to blend in with their environment when at rest, signal to other sunbeams when in flight, and lower their body temperature by reflecting sunlight. 

Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The angled sunbeam caterpillar belongs to the gossamer wing butterfly family Lycaenidae. Its genus, Curetis, constitutes the sole member of the subfamily Curetinae, whose members collectively go by the name sunbeam butterflies. Sunbeams comprise the smallest taxonomic group within the gossamer wing butterfly family and number approximately 25 species. The angled sunbeam caterpillar’s scientific name, Curetis acuta, comes from the Latin words curetis, meaning sunbeam, and acuta, from acūtus, meaning “acute” or “angled.” Their common name likely stems from two distinct features. First, from the acute angles formed by the rear hindwings of the adult males and, second, by the manner in which the adults’ silvery ventral wings reflect sunlight. 

Appearance: How to Identify Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar

They possess two thin, yellow periscopes near their hind end that point upward and away from the body.

A-Z-Animals.com

As larvae, angled sunbeam caterpillars appear predominantly light green and measure approximately 1 inch long. They possess two thin, yellow periscopes near their hind end that point upward and away from the body. When threatened, these periscopes release a tentacled organ that telescopes around to scare off predators. 

Adult angled sunbeam caterpillars are sexually dimorphic, although they share some similarities. Males have orangish-red upper wings with broad black margins, while females have predominantly black upper wings with white markings on the fore and hind wings. Both males and females possess silvery underwings that reflect light and help the adults to blend in with their surroundings. 

Habitat: Where to Find Angled Sunbeam Caterpillars

You can find angled sunbeam caterpillars throughout Southeast Asia. Its range extends from India in the west to Japan in the east and includes China and Taiwan. Small populations may also live in some areas of Mainland Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. They are common in tropical and subtropical forests. As caterpillars, they spend most of their time attached to the leaves and stems of broadleaf trees, shrubs, and flowers. Once the caterpillars reach their final instar, they attach themselves to a leaf with silk strings and start to pupate. Meanwhile, adult angled sunbeam caterpillars travel in search of mates and food. 

Diet: What Do Angle Sunbeam Caterpillars Eat?

Their diet is not well-researched or understood. At present, they do not appear to feed on specific host plants. They appear to prefer the foliage of broadleaf trees and shrubs but will also eat the leaves of vines such as kudzu and other perennial plants. Although they appear opportunistic, further research may reveal that their diet consists of a limited number of host species. The caterpillars feed on foliage until they reach their final instar, at which point they cease feeding and start to pupate. As adults, angled sunbeam butterflies feed on nectar and water, which they rely on to give them the energy they need to fly and seek out mates. 

Altered Sunbeam Butterfly
As adults, angled sunbeam butterflies feed on nectar and water, which they rely on to give them the energy they need to fly and seek out mates.

KADAKADAR IN-ORN/Shutterstock.com

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Angled Sunbeam Caterpillars

Angled sunbeam caterpillars are not native to North America, so you’re unlikely to find any in the wild. Hopefully, this stays true, as non-native species can drastically impact ecosystems where they are not normally found. In the event that you find angled sunbeam caterpillars in the wild, your best bet is to leave them alone. However, if you wish to remove them, your best bet is to remove the caterpillars from their source of food. You can dislodge them by spraying them with a high-pressure water hose or individually plucking them from leaves. Alternatively, you could make a caterpillar-repellent with soapy water or water mixed with irritants like vinegar, chili powder, or ground pepper. Finally, you could turn to the use of chemical insecticides or pesticides. That said, these methods may lead to other unexpected consequences and cause more harm than good.  

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Angled Sunbeam Caterpillar FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are angled sunbeam caterpillars dangerous?

Angled sunbeam caterpillars do not pose a threat to humans.

How many legs do angled sunbeam caterpillars have?

As adults, angled sunbeams have 6 legs.

How do you identify angled sunbeam caterpillars?

The caterpillars look bright green and have two periscopes near the hind end with telescoping tentacles. As adults, the males have upper wings that are orange with black margins, while the females have black wings with white markings.

How do you get rid of angled sunbeam caterpillars?

To remove angled sunbeam caterpillars, you can try physically removing them or spraying them with insecticide.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. , Available here: https://archive.org/details/butterflies02bingiala/page/442/mode/1up?view=theater
  2. , Available here: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/lepid/41/4/41_KJ00006598202/_pdf/-char/en
  3. , Available here: https://academic.oup.com/biolinnean/article/109/2/279/2415950

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