In my garden

milkweed tussock/milkweed tiger moth caterpillar...and babies

milkweed tiger moth caterpillar and her brood

Sometimes my brain reverts back to life in Florida where furry caterpillars are toxic and fall out of trees only to end up somewhere down your shirt, stinging you in places that nobody wants to be stung. This usually results in a nasty rash and an understandable hatred toward furry caterpillars, but I really want to pet this beauty. Before I learned what she was I just called her the “wooly mammoth”. She’s not mammoth at all (only slightly longer than an inch) but she’s certainly wooly. There are dozens of caterpillars just like her all over one half of my porch.

I have no idea if these furry caterpillars are toxic to humans or not, but I do know that they are toxic to most of their predators. Even ants and other insects know to stay away from them. After the caterpillars become full-fledged moths of the night-flying variety, they use their “sound organ” to create a series of clicks that warns bats to stay away. One entomologist compared it to “trash talk“.

I think this caterpillar is one of my new favorite animals.

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2 thoughts on “In my garden

  1. What a stunning creature, I can see why you want to pat it! I once patted some caterpillars called Spitfire caterpillars which were in cluster on a tree in my childhood garden. Not a good idea, its hairs sting like burns when you touch them!

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