caterpillars
Hi! I found your site several weeks ago after my arm grazed a Saddleback Caterpillar. After several minutes of frantic searching, certain that the bubbling flesh sensation on my arm was a harbinger of death, I was relieved to learn that the toxin is usually just a nuisance. Discovering that there are so many bizarre caterpillars that I?ve never seen before helped me deal with the discomfort of the sting. Since then, I?ve used your site for a few other identifications. Here?s a caterpillar I came across yesterday. It looked rather like the Tussock Moth caterpillars pictured on your site, but not quite. After delving deeper into the Tussock category, I believe it?s a Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar. I don?t think you have a picture of this particular variety. I?m still having trouble identifying this rust-colored caterpillar that looks like it has facial hair. After viewing all of your caterpillar shots, I think it’s vaguely Dagger-ish, but I’m not convinced. Any ideas? I live in southern Maryland. Thanks so much for your great work!
~MM
PS– On the camera front: I?ve also learned that my Cannon Powershot is great for many things, but shooting moving fuzzy caterpillars is not among its strengths. So far, nothing holds a candle to my old Pentax K-1000.

Hi MN,
Thanks for sending us an image of the Sycamore Tussock Moth, Halysidota harrisii. Researching its scientific name led us to a caterpillar site we hadn’t visited before, Tom Murray’s Moth Caterpillars. We agree your other caterpillar is probably a Dagger Moth, but the photo is quite blurry.

3 Responses to Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  1. Catharine says:

    They don’t ‘bite’ or ‘sting’ in the traditional sense. When they feel threatened, they drop their hairs, which have a compound on them that can make you break out in hives. How do I know? I live in Alabama, I have a huge sycamore tree in my yard, we are overrun with these caterpillars, I have suffered the rash, and I have a Master’s degree in biology. So I’m sorry, but BugGuide is wrong.
    (One fell from the roof of my porch into the collar of my shirt. By the time I got it off, it had spread the hairs down the side of my neck and across my collarbone. It initially felt like needles, and then was angry and itchy for several more days.)

  2. The DO NOT STING! They are NOT harmful to the trees.
    Their hairs are indeed irritating, a possible defense against predators.
    They are NOT venomous, in the way of the Saddleback caterpillar, Slug Moth caterpillar, or the IO Moth caterpillar. However, if you press the hairs into yourself, they will irritate, and cause a histamine reaction. Happened to me last summer.
    They are not dangerous to people, pets, trees, or anything.

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