Pine processionary (caterpillars) march together in long sometimes straight sometimes winding procession, though this promenade is always a continuous single-file line. Nose literally touching the rear in front of them, and they don’t break ranks for nothing!
This behavior not only gives the caterpillar its name, but also a deadly characteristic.
Every caterpillar leaves the nest to work in perfect harmony and with unwavering team loyalty in their quest for food…and survival.
Enter Jean Henri Fabrè, a French entomologist and naturalist, In his 1916 book he famously revealed an experiment he ran. Since he knew the caterpillars don’t care who they’re following, he cunningly lead the pine processionary onto the rim of the flowerpot one-by-one head-to-tail until the rim was full of these loyal marching creatures.
He had placed leaves, sticks and other caterpillar food well within their senses and reach.
Round and round they followed each other. The blind leading the blind leading the blind. Day after day after day. Eighty-four hours, 335 full circle round trips. For a week they followed the leader, starving as they were, without a single one breaking ranks and heading for the food that was well within reach within a matter of seconds.
Ironically in their quest for survival, most of the caterpillars died of exhaustion and starvation and most likely dehydration. ∎
Related: 10 Inch Frying Pan Story
Play Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow 101 for this very reason. To break people of the rat race. To teach them in a non-life threatening way that if they don’t see the error of their ways, if they don’t break ranks with the rest of the rat race, they never will.
Google: processionary caterpillar story for other writers’ meanings for this metaphor to be used in public speaking, or coaching, or whatever.
“Fabre conducted a famous study on the processionary pine larvae where a group of them were attached nose-to-tail in a circle with food just outside the circle; they continued marching in the circle for a week; he described the experiment in his 1916 book The Life of the Caterpillar.” – Wikipedia