The White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

As I work on my job on Rest Area Maintenance (R.A.M. for short) I often discover some interesting creatures at the rustic rural highway waysides we care for. A few weeks ago as I was cleaning one of the restrooms at the wayside near the town of Jump River, I noticed a very unique and beautifully colored furry caterpillar. I had never seen quite such an interesting caterpillar before. It was black and white with two long antennae like things coming from the back end as well as two long antennae from the head. Its head was bright cherry red in color and there were four tufts of bristly white fur along the top of its back making it look like a miniature walking toothbrush.

I carefully captured it and brought it home in a bottle to see if I could figure out what it actually was. I sent along a picture of one of these caterpillars just to show how unusual this little insect is.

After a bit of research on the internet I was able to identify what it actually is. It turns out that it was a White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar the Tussock Moth Caterpillars are in the family Lymantriidae and are ravenous eaters capable of defoliating entire forests when found in large enough numbers.

The most famous family member is the foreign introduced Gypsy Moth that was brought into North America and has caused great damage to our forests at times. Those Gypsy Moth critters cost millions of dollars to control each year in the United States. The Caterpillar I found, ...

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