NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Hickory Tussock Moth

Aug 2011 033come to me

This fuzzy little guy is a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar. Most caterpillars are discovered in mid to late summer. Usually, by then, they have reached a noticeable size from eating all season and growing from larva into full caterpillars. Below, is one common variety of Hickory Tussock Moth.

Lophocampa caryae
Lophocampa caryae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many varieties of Tussock Moths. Their caterpillars vary in appearance too. All are about 2 inches long and fuzzy/spiky in appearance . They love eating Hickory trees but will settle for Elm, Ash, Oak and Willow trees too. They sometimes can cause the defoliation of these trees.

weird 001The one above, was brought to me by my daughter who had found it so curious looking. Thankfully, she did not handle it directly. I found this warning when making the identification:

“The Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar has poisonous hairs and spines that can cause skin rashes similar to poison ivy. If your child should rub his/her eyes or touches his/her nose after coming into contact with this caterpillar reactions can also include conjunctivitis (eyes), light sensitivity (eyes) and wheezing (nose).”

Under a microscope, those little hairs are barbed. Seems these little guys are “armed and dangerous” to most prey. Thankfully, most toads, small snakes and birds don’t mind a bit. We are very fortunate that Mother Nature holds everything in delicate balance!

PS.~ These caterpillars were photographed in New York State and Massachusetts. The link to the warning talks about Maine but they are here too!

8 thoughts on “NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Hickory Tussock Moth

  1. P.S. I Love Soap Co. 05/08/2013 / 6:53 am

    Tell you Something good? I’ve never picked up a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar. LoL:)

    • Susan 05/08/2013 / 6:55 am

      They seem harmless and appealing. Good instincts You have! 🙂

  2. Stephen G. Hipperson 05/08/2013 / 7:00 am

    What cool looking beasties.
    I’m glad nobody messed about them. We have a few hairies here and we were keen to let the kids know they may not be safe to pick up.

    • Susan 05/08/2013 / 7:02 am

      Great advice! I’m sending this post to day care people that I know. Thanks!

  3. iceace 05/08/2013 / 8:53 am

    I’m very careful with caterpillars ever since we moved to France and discovered the ‘pine-processional’ – which also has hairs to beware of. They cause rashes, problems if inhaled and can seriously injure the tongue of an inquisitive dog.
    Your hickory tussock moth, and caterpillar are just beautiful!

    • Susan 05/08/2013 / 8:56 am

      Thank-you. I found the white ones so pretty but should always regard beauty, in Nature, as a likely warning. I appreciate your comment!

  4. Shakti Ghosal 05/08/2013 / 8:56 am

    Fascinating indeed. And the photos are superb. Is this an area of passion for you?


    • Susan 05/08/2013 / 9:01 am

      Every part of Nature fascinates me, but I am drawn to photographing insects and amphibians most often. Many people are not, at all, informed and I hope to help in that area with my NATURE KNOWLEDGE posts. Thanks for your question!

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