White Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

IMG_4990These caterpillars seem to be everywhere at this time of year. While they are not poisonous, they can cause a stinging rash. Best to look, not touch!

from Snopes.com:

“The hairs on the caterpillar are long and bristle-like and spread out in tufts down the sides. Two long, sharp, black pencil-like hairs protrude near the front and rear of the creature, and these hairs are connected to poison glands, which excrete venom on contact.

Contact with the venom does not generally cause too much of a problem. A nettle or poison ivy-type rash often occurs, which can range from mild with slight reddening of the skin, to burning, swelling and pain, none of which should keep you away from your gardening duties for too long. Hypersensitive individuals may, of course, experience more severe symptoms that could include swelling and nausea. Washing the infected area with soap and water, taking antihistamines, or using ammonia, calamine lotion, or an ice pack can help to alleviate most minor symptoms fairly quickly. People who do experience more severe reactions, however, should seek expert medical advice as soon as possible.”

About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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57 Responses to White Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  1. polly3yr says:

    Sent from Deb T


  2. Jim R says:

    I didn’t know that. And, such a pretty little thing.

  3. Bela Johnson says:

    I do remember those critters.

  4. Okay. I don’t like caterpillars. But this one is cute!

  5. Denzil - Life Sentences says:

    Looks like something knitted

  6. Alice Pratt says:

    I’m wondering why these ‘pillars have these poison glands…..probably not to only cause skin problems on humans….maybe they taste bad to predators?

  7. Alice Pratt says:

    Looked it up….they taste awful…..those hairs have barbs, which stay in your skin….and the Hickory Tussock Moth, that it turns into has urticating…irritating…barbs as well.

  8. naturebackin says:

    Such a handsome caterpillar! I wonder if the birds have learnt to avoid them?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      It is quite striking in its tuxedo colors. I wonder the same about predators. Perhaps they are immune to the poison or eat from the underbelly. Nature is full of wonders!

  9. If I ever see one, I’ll follow your advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Kathy Sturr says:

    So cute! I am glad you informed me as I’d be tempted to pet this little puppy!

  11. And so that is the very reason at least one of them, why I wear leather gardening gloves. We have yellow caterpillars like this which instinctively I avoid. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

  12. Kris P says:

    Cute – and well armed! (Or should I say fuzzed?)

  13. I’m avoiding looking for caterpillars right now – those fuzzy ones are a sign of cold weather! (Also being ignored: Orion’s return to the sky).

  14. MK says:

    Very very cool! I’ve never seen any like this.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      We have lots of moths here that have fuzzy caterpillars. When my son was a tot and interested in such things, he found a yellow one that we let pupate to see what it would grow into; it was a pretty orange and midnight blue moth. I took a photo of it on his finger when we released it. He was so proud! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • MK says:

        Oh good. At first I thought you were going to say he found a pretty yellow caterpillar and he ate it!
        I hope you still have the photo.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I do, and it is a sweet one, back when we had film and waited to finish the roll to mail it away and another week or more for it to be processed. What an instant world we live in now!

  15. They are beautiful, they look as though they’d be lovely and furry to the touch, but I’ve heard warnings not to touch spiny caterpillars before because they can irritate – having said that I did touch a spiny caterpillar yesterday – not one of these – to move it out of the road, fortunately no ill effects!

  16. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    An amazing looking caterpillar!

  17. Jet Eliot says:

    Such an elegant and unique-looking caterpillar. They sound as prickly as they look. Thank you, Eliza, for this introduction…always fun to see a new creature.

  18. Christy B says:

    I’ll keep my distance! Admiring from afar ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Attractive looking, but definitely one to avoid. Nice photos!

  20. I love that first shot with it look up under its fringe!

  21. Brenda says:

    We have had oodles of these and the milkweed tussocks this year. A hairy summer.

  22. Robbie says:

    as always interesting, Eliza… an amazing photo of a new little creature. I have never seen those before

  23. I had one on my car tire. I was going to move it but decided not to. I let it make it’s own way. That Caterpillar was lucky that I don’t go out much.

  24. Robin says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these. It’s a handsome little devil. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. What a good looking and very punky caterpillar!

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