Possible Buck Moth?
Location: Meaux, Louisiana
March 21, 2012 3:34 am
Found a large circle of caterpillars at the base of a water oak in Meaux, LA. Pretty bizarre to watch, especially as they moved out of the circle and up the tree. A friend of mine pointed me to a Buck Moth identification on your site – and that appears likely to be what they are. Thanks!
About 5/20/2011, we had a bunch of moths swarm the outside of the house. My guess is that they’re the same and I’ll have moths galore in 2 months and some pretty bare oak trees. Do they look like the same to you? More pics at http://goo.gl/oOA22 – welcome to use any of them as you wish (sadly, the moth pics aren’t very good at all – but I guess I’ll get another chance).
We concur with your identification of these Buck Moth Caterpillars, Hemileuca maia, and there is a nice matching photo on BugGuide, though they do not have any images that document the interesting formation the caterpillars make when they aggregate. These social caterpillars also have protective spines that will produce an irritating sting if they are carelessly handled. That is probably a deterrent to predators like birds that swallow caterpillars whole.