All Dressed Up in White and Black

Caterpillars are irresistible to watch, as they go about their business.  And so many have such attractive patterns and colouring.

This one, with this classic combination of white and black is one to be wary of…..similar in a way to the monarch, in that it is unpleasant for eating by its predators.  Of course, humans aren’t necessarily in the habit of eating caterpillars; however, we DO sometimes want to touch them.  That’s where it’s prudent to be wary, because this one can cause skin rashes and irritations, if touched.

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My son and I spotted this little fella about three weeks ago. First time we’d ever seen this caterpillar. I took photos so that at some point I could find a way to identify it. On Monday when I was visiting with a friend of mine, we saw a few of these very same caterpillars – as we were sitting under the willow tree – and she said that she hadn’t had a chance to identify them yet. So, I just googled to find an image that resembled mine.
Voilà!
It’s the LOPHOCAMPA CARYAE ie. the hickory tussock caterpillar.


“Caterpillars are seen between July and September.
The moth primarily feeds on hickory, pecan and walnuts, but will also eat ash, elm, oak, willow, and other plants.
The larva, a caterpillar, is completely covered in long, hairlike setae arranged in spreading tufts. Most are white, but there are black tufts along the middle of the back, and four long black hair pencils, two near the front, and two near the back.
These hairs cause itchy rashes in some people.[2] They are microscopically barbed and may cause serious medical complications if they are transferred from the hands to the eyes.[3] There are black spots along the sides, and the head capsule is black.” – from Wikipedia

In this photo, with its black face, white eyes, and front feet outstretched…..spooky!

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