Tufty caterpillars

Winter is coming here, and things are quieting down.  I will take the opportunity from time to time to show you things from earlier this summer that for various reasons I never sent out.

The world of caterpillars is one that fascinates the inner child in all of us, ever since we read for ourselves or to our children and grandchildren Alice in Wonderland, and then  The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Some of my favorites.

This is a Yellow-necked caterpillar, Dayana minister, in defensive posture, holding on only with its prolegs and curving up both ends of the body in a perfect yoga pose. *

Yellow-Necked Caterpillar

The true stars of the punk caterpillar world are the tussock moths. This is a White-marked Tussock moth:

White-marked tussock moth

A Definite Tussock mothWhite-marked Tussock Moth, Orgyia leucostigma

A Milkweed Tussock moth, looking just like a miniature schnauzer:

Milkweed tussock moth

A Pine Tussock moth

Pine tussock moth caterpillar

And two Hickory Tussock moths:

Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar

Caterpillars have very cool feet; the one in the photo below is traveling at full speed, so the first pair of prolegs are in mid-air.*  Olympic gymnasts on the balance beam cannot compare.


Not so endearingly, the spines (setae) of tussock moths can cause skin irritation. Each spine (seta) has a tiny poison sac at its base.

Diagram of urticating seta and associated venom gland of whitemarked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma).

Figure 25. Diagram of urticating seta and associated venom gland of whitemarked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma). Redrawn from Gilmer (1925) by Jane C. Medley, University of Florida.

* Caterpillars have six true legs, like the butterflies and moths that they will become, and several further sets of prolegs, stubby short plump appendages that support the rest of their long bodies.

6 thoughts on “Tufty caterpillars”

  1. Such totally terrific photos! What a variety of such amazing animals we have on our planet! Saw a Milkweed Tussock moth last year on our Milkweed. One is fine..I let it stay & munch.


  2. Very interesting Moira..thanks!

    ” Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that

    too many people have died? “

    Bob Dylan

    Sent from my iPad



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