Currently viewing the category: "Woolly Bears"

Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Central PA
Date: 09/04/2021
Time: 01:29 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Is this poisonous? What type of caterpillar is this?
How you want your letter signed:  Jeff

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Jeff,
This is a Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar and it poses no threat to humans unlike other caterpillars that are known to sting.  Insects that feed on milkweed are able to incorporate toxins which make them distasteful or possibly even toxic to predators that eat them.

Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Jensen Beach, FL 34957
Date: 06/27/2021
Time: 09:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  These suddenly appeared on my ornamental trees. Are they harmful?
How you want your letter signed:  Kathraine

Oleander Caterpillars

Dear Kathraine,
We verified the identity of your Caterpillar as
Empyreuma pugione on BugGuide, and the adult is the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar Moth, and since we do not want to call this the caterpillar of the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar Moth, we are going to call it the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar.  We will let you decide if they are harmful.

Oleander Caterpillar

Thank you so much! I am just hoping that the birds have a good lunch and leave it at that.
I just did some more reading. They’re poisonous to birds due to eating the oleander. I might try to pick some of them off, but my trees should live alright in spite of the caterpillars’ appetite.

Hi again Kathraine,
The caterpillars feed on the leaves and if the oleander is otherwise healthy, it will regrow leaves.  Caterpillars do not generally kill the plants upon which they feed.

Subject:  WTF? Crazy sea urchin looking bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Middle Tennessee
Date: 10/03/2019
Time: 05:32 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  So found this bug around 4 o’clock In the morning while taking the dog to the bathroom. Actually my dog found it. Idk if it was curled into a ball as a defense mechanism or if this is just what it looks like. I grew up here and have never seen anything remotely close to this. Other than those hairy black and red caterpillar ant things that bite the crap out you and hurt like well you know. Anyway I don’t think that is what this is cause I’ve never seen one of those this big before. As a matter of perspective it’s in a normal size pickle jar so you can see it’s roughly the size of a ping pong ball or so. Any ideas?
How you want your letter signed:  SimplySimon

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

Dear SimplySimon,
This is a Woolly Bear, the caterpillar of a Tiger Moth in the subfamily Arctiinae.  We are relatively confident it is a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar,
Hypercompe scribonia, which is pictured on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Late instar caterpillar mostly black with tufts of stiff black hairs of equal length radiating around body. Rolls up head to tail when disturbed. When curled, red intersegmental rings visible between the hairs.”  We have numerous images on our site of the adult Giant Leopard Moth, but not many of the caterpillars so your submission is a welcome addition to our archives.

Subject:  Fuzzy Wuzzy Friend
Geographic location of the bug:  Holly Springs, MS
Date: 09/27/2019
Time: 10:01 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi again Daniel!
A previous Bug Queen here. I have a new friend I have since freed to the yard. Would you please be so kind as to identify my fuzzy wuzzy pal?
How you want your letter signed:  Your biggest fan, Stephanie

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Stephanie,
This looks like a Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota tessellaris, to us, and though it is a variably colored caterpillar, it does match the individual in this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of alder, ash, birch, elm, hazel, hickory, oak, poplar, tulip tree, walnut, willow.”

Subject:  Caterpillar eating water hyacinth
Geographic location of the bug:  Lake Hiawassee, Orlando, Florida
Date: 02/12/2019
Time: 02:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Closest I can find is Larva of the arctiid moth Paracles sp.
How you want your letter signed:  Phil

Tiger Moth Caterpillar on Water Hyacinth

Dear Phil,
We believe you might be correct.  We found an posting of
Paracles tenuis and the site states:  “Host:  common water hyacinth” and we are presuming the water hyacinth is the invasive species in question.  iNaturalist lists the genus Paracles in South America.  We don’t find the species listed on BugGuide, so this might be a new North American sighting.  Right now we are being thwarted in our research by a glacially slow internet.  We want to browse all Arctiinae caterpillars on BugGuide before we eliminate any native species.

Dear Daniel,
Thanks for the reply and your efforts in this matter. The one I sent you a picture escaped when I wasn’t looking. I found a second smaller one (earlier instar, picture attached) and am continuing to look for others as I am mechanically removing the water hyacinth from the lake as it is an exotic and extremely invasive plant. I will attempt to rear this and any others I find to the adult moth to better secure the identification.
Thanks so much for your help.

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Dear Phil,
Good luck eradicating those water hyacinths, an invasive plant species from the Amazon.  We wonder if the caterpillars you found are part of a program to help control the water hyacinths with biological methods.  We look forward to any further updated you can provide, including images of the adult moth.

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Dear Daniel,
I wouldn’t suspect the caterpillar as a means of control. I have found only 5 in an area of 400 sqft and from what I have seen they only sample a few leaves before moving onto another plant.
In addition to my hand removal of the water hyacinth, the city has sprayed a herbicide twice so far killing (and leaving to rot in place) far more than I could hope to remove by hand.
Bit by bit, but is an aggressive plant and dense to the point of killing all plants below it.
Thanks for your help. I will be back if I am successful in rearing a caterpillar.
Phil Wittman
Come look a Cobra in the eye!



Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Waxhaw, NC
Date: 09/08/2018
Time: 04:30 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Saw it in some fresh laid hay used by our groundskeeper.
How you want your letter signed:  KathyS

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear KathyS,
This is a Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota harrisii, and here is a BugGuide image for comparison.