Archive for September 23rd, 2011


When I was working in the barn, I noticed this fellow creeping determinedly across the floor, evidently in a hurry to get to wherever he was heading. I waylaid him in his journey long enough to take this photograph.

It’s a Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar. About an inch and a half long, he looks soft and fuzzy, but these caterpillars are actually bristly. Sensitive persons may have a mild allergic reaction resulting in a rash after handling such caterpillars. As the name suggests, hickory is a favorite foodplant for this species, but they will feed on almost any woody plant as well.

(NOTE: Several readers have left comments about the nasty reactions experienced by children handling these caterpillars. Please see their warnings in the comment section.)

The female moth lays her eggs in large batches, so the tiny caterpillars can initially be found in clusters of a hundred or more. By the time they reach full size, they have left their hatching spot and I only saw this one individual. It will spend the approaching winter as a pupa, wrapped in a loose cocoon spun in leaf litter. When it emerges as a moth next year, it will look like the Hickory Tussock Moth pictured below, photo courtesy of Seabrooke. You can learn more about her new Peterson Field Guide to Moths here. Thanks again, Seab!


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