White Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Posted on by Kathie Fife

Caterpillars seem to be out in force this week.  A short walk in my yard led me to another interesting encounter with a peculiar looking caterpillar.  This one looks like a strange looking toothbrush (the three white tufts on the back).

White Tussock Moth caterpillar

White Tussock Moth caterpillar. Click on image to view larger.

I had to look this one up.  I’ve seen it before, but not nearly as often as its cousin, the Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar that thrives on the milkweed just outside my kitchen window.

In some areas of the country and Canada these White Tussock Moth caterpillars can cause damage to trees and have been know to defoliate them, but not quite as bad as the gypsy moth epidemic that occurred in the northeast many years ago. Oh, how I remember that… yuck!  Thick green droppings covered everything. I remember not being able to walk outside without my shoes being covered in green goo and slipping on the slimy mess.

Unlike the Milkweek Tussock Moth that creates a self defense by consuming the alkaloid toxins in the milkweed sap making it lethal to consumers, the White Tussock Moth uses its hairs to ward off predators.  The hairs cause a severe reaction in some people when touched, much like stinging nettle, and can cause respiratory problems when inhaled. Learn more here.

I’m glad I only took a picture of the White Tussock Moth caterpillar because Mother Nature’s critters certainly know how to take of themselves to avoid predation.

This image was shot using an iPhone and edited in Lightroom and Photoshop.

All content is copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Images and content may be used by written permission. 

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