What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

scorpion caterpillar!
Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 3:05 PM
Hello! Outside in our garden I found a caterpillar that looked like it was pretending to be a scorpion.
I have no idea what it is, I am from the UK so dont know much about american bugs.
Any ideas?
central Illinois

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Rich,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus Orgyia, probably the White Marked Tussock Moth, Orgyia leucostigma, which BugGuide describes as: “Caterpillars are recognized by the bright red head and broad black stripe along the back flanked by a yellow stripe each side.  Two red glands on  sixth and seventh abdominal segments, and four tufts of hairs (which may be white, gray or yellowish) on the first four abdominal segments are common to several members of the genus.
CAUTION: Contact with hairs may cause an allergic reaction.
Adult females, which are pale grey, are wingless and therefore flightless. ”   We are amused that you described this caterpillar as looking like a scorpion, because you have a species in the UK, Stauropus fagi, the Lobster Moth Caterpillar, which really, really looks like a scorpion.  We posted a photo of the Lobster Moth Caterpillar in September 2005 from England and more in August 2007 from Japan.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

24 Responses to Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  1. crux101 says:

    Hi…we just found one of these in the woods of SW Pennsylvania and looked here to see if there was any info. Ours has blacker antenea on a bright red head and fine black hairs along the back. A friend cautioned against touching it but there was really no problem about it looking the least bit “pet-able”. I’ll see if we can get a picture and post it here. Thanks for identifying it!!

  2. Seto Family says:

    Thanks for the ID!
    We just found one of these in an older suburban subdivision with lots of mature oak, maple and chestnut trees in Toronto Ontario.

  3. Cedwards says:

    I have just found this in North ALABAMA .

  4. I just found a Tussock Moth Caterpilllar, on my clay strawberry pot today. Weird looking thing. And yes, I thought of a scorpion, also. It even has a tail that curls up. Definite pincher looking things by its bright red head. I live on Michigan.

  5. We’ve had Tussock caterpillars for only the last 3 yrs of our 6 yrs here in Ocala, FL (central FL 30 minutes S of Gainesville, 1 hr N of Orlando). They are pesky, crawling from ground, up foundation onto white hardy board of house. I go on “Caterpillar Patrol” 2 xs a day to remove them immediately BEFORE they form their cacoons. The cacoon is much harder to remove, leaving a fuzzy residue behind, especially if the devils have crawled higher than I can reach. Then it’s extension ladder time. I hoped for a chemical or SOMETHING I could spray on the foundation between ground & hardy board to detour them from climbing on the house, but our local pest control company tells me there is nothing lasting. Any suggestions besides “Patrolling” daily..?

  6. sabrina says:

    So are they physically harmful other than allergic reaction from touching the hair? My 3 yo has found so many of them around the yard & on the deck. (Augusta,GA area by the way)

  7. Maddy says:

    I just saw wine of these in my viset to London ontario

  8. James says:

    Sitting in the UK and had one show up in a conference room of a building with a garden in the middle of it. It definitely meets the description. The images of the Lobster Moth caterpillar look different from this guy.
    With all the stuff that moves between locations, and the similarities in environment between North America and the UK, it would not surprise me if they found there way between the two over the last 200 years.

    • bugman says:

      It would not be the first time a New World species was accidentally or intentionally introduced to the Old World, or vice versa.

  9. Kim L Afa says:

    I just saw one today in Missouri. It was beautiful but it looked like it could bite or sting. Needless to say I was glad when it left my porch. After I found out what it was I glad I didn’t touch it!

  10. gemma says:

    I found these in my garden on my rose bushes, and in my allotments, fascinating things I live in England Stoke on trent

  11. Rick says:

    Found in Winter Harbor, Maine,

  12. Marie says:

    Found one in Big Sandy, TN on the deck 20 ft up on a thyme plant. It is really beautiful!

  13. Vicki Behrens says:

    Found one eating my dill. Have a picture…20170710_182734.jpg

  14. christine weaver says:

    Found in Rochester,ny. I’m sure this has been asked before but any idea what color(s) the butterfly will be? You’d think this beautiful catepillar would be double the beauty transforming into a butterfly

    • bugman says:

      While your concept is not without creative logic, the moth that will eventually result from the White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar is brown in color. See BugGuide for some examples.

  15. Bonnie Tanner says:

    We must have a cocoon somewhere close by my house here in Savannah, Ga. Never seen one of these before, but this week we’ve seen three. Creepy looking!!

  16. C. Surowiec says:

    I never heard of these till yesterday. Thought it was a baby “tent Cat/” till I took a closer look. Looked like a scorpion and when I got cole to it, it raised it trial like it wanted to strike me. I used a leaf to see if it would attack and it sure did. N.W. Washington State.

  17. Kade Freeman says:

    Found one in Monroe, LA while turning gas on to a customer’s house.

  18. Richard Seidemann says:

    You did not mention the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar. Species (like the monarch butterfly caterpillar) is primarily found on milkweed which provides them protection from predators. Very similar in appearance.

  19. Claudia Quintero says:

    Found one in Texas (about 2 hrs southwest of Houston. It would not leave my cat alone. Everytime she moved it made a beeline for her!
    Thanks for the ID, I thought it was an asp!

  20. many eating my maple . I am extremely allergic.Cuting away branches attacked , apparently sent it’s fur flying.Dead or alive these things are a plague if you are sensitive. Clinton ct. Late July l

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