Sunday, September 30, 2012


I was taking a walk near the Kalamazoo River enjoying the early fall colors when this striking white caterpillar with black spots caught my eye.  I think it's a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae).  Many slow-moving insects are camouflaged to hide from predators.  This hairy caterpillar uses the opposite approach: its colors warn predators not to eat it.  The hairs are stinging spines that can deliver a dose of toxins.  This defensive mechanism can cause a skin rash for people, if they touch this little creature.

In a few weeks, this caterpillar will weave a cocoon.  After winter is over, it will emerge as a moth.

The Discover Life website has a useful tool for identifying caterpillars.


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