Subject: Unidentified hairy caterpillar from the Sharjah Deserts
Location: Sharjah, UAE
January 9, 2013 1:31 am
I keep finding this hairy and brilliantly colored (for a desert species) caterpillar in the Sharjah deserts feeding on Haloxylon salicornicum every Jan – Mar cycle. In fact, I’m seeing it now for the 3rd straight year in a row. Any ideas on id. Some kind of moth caterpillar perhaps as most of the butterfly caterpillars are identifiable on the Arabian peninsula???
We have been trying unsuccessfully to identify your caterpillar, which we suspect is either a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the subfamily Arctiinae (see BugGuide for North American examples) or possibly in the Tent Caterpillar family Lasiocampidae (see BugGuide for North American examples). Many caterpillars in those groups have utricating or stinging hairs, and that might be the reason for the orange warning or aposomatic coloration. We did find this somewhat similar photo of Ad-dud ar-rabie (literally in Arabic “the spring worm”) on the Initiating a Response to the Degradation of Al Badia website, but it is not an exact match.
Interestingly, the two visual matches we did locate were inquiry postings you made on Project Noah here in January 2012 and here with your 2011 sighting. We will continue to research this matter and perhaps one of our readers will stumble upon an answer.