Attack of the fuzzy white caterpillars

Ok, not really, but now that I have your attention…

This weekend was fairly uneventful on the homestead, as it was raining for a good part of the weekend. On Saturday, we weren’t able to do much because of the rain, but we still made the trip. We emptied out the burning barrel, and all of that wood and brush from last week was reduced to this small pile of ash!

By the time we went back up on Sunday, even more rain had fallen, and the creek was running higher than I’ve ever seen it, with the exception of the time it flooded back in March. Again, I used the alternate trails carved by nature (mostly deer), and I’m hoping to be able to expand the main trail a bit once the brush has thinned out. If this works, it’ll be so much easier to get down to the creek and back.

I also noticed something very interesting happening with the forsythia that Dave had trimmed a couple of weekends ago. It was apparently so thrilled with actually being cut back so far, because it’s flowering again! I kid you not. These aren’t old blossoms that somehow managed to survive the summer; several of the plants around the clearing are sporting tiny yellow buds.

Oh, and as for the fuzzy white caterpillars I mentioned in the title of this entry, I started seeing them within the last week or two. This week, they seemed to be nearly everywhere in and around the woods. With the help of various websites, I think I’ve identified them as the hickory tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae).

I’ve never been a fan of caterpillars and get a little weirded out when I find one on me (when I was little, the neighbor kids held me down and threw caterpillars on me for fun), but these bits of fluff are actually kind of cute…in a caterpillar sort of way. As I took photos, I found that they’re very curious of the camera. More than once as I put the lens close enough to get a shot in super macro mode, I noticed that the caterpillar stretched up toward the camera as if trying to get a closer look.

Finally, as you can see from this upper yard vantage point, the leaves have been showing their beautiful fall colors for a few weeks now.

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18 Responses to Attack of the fuzzy white caterpillars

  1. Country Wife says:

    Wow, great pics!!! Are those the kind of caterpillars that sting? We have been overrun with tent caterpillars here. They were all over the house and you couldn’t walk outside without them falling on you from a clear blue sky. lol You didn’t even have to be under a tree!

  2. daclaren says:


    I don’t think they sting, although a few in the tussock family apparently do. We, too, were overrun with eastern tent caterpillars earlier in the year and had the same experiences. They were constantly falling on us or getting caught on clothing as we passed by.

    This obviously didn’t thrill me very much. 😉 I’m a little worried that we’ll be overrun by the tussock ones, too, but I don’t think it’ll be as bad as it was with the tent caterpillars.

    Thanks for reminding me to look up photos of stinging caterpillars so I can figure out what to avoid if I happen to encounter them.

  3. AdkNorth says:

    Amazing what a little pile of ash a bunch of brush will burn down to! We’ve been doing the same, but I’m sure you’ve gotten much more done. Happy Fall!!

  4. Oh the creek envy I have!!! Sure, i sort of have a pond in the backyard, but that’s the result of lots of rain, a poorly graded yard and living in a development that was probably built on a wetland in the ’70’s. Not the same as that great creek!!

  5. Dennis says:

    these caterpillars are poison as my 4 year old discovered. she found one and allowed it to crawl up and down her arms. that evening her arms were filled with welts and blisters from the very same and beautiful larvae you have a picture of. benadryl and anti itch cream with some rewashing of her arms finally subsided the pain and itch after about 6 to 8 hours

  6. daclaren says:

    Thanks for the info, Dennis. Sounds like your daughter is hypersensitive to them and had an allergic reaction. (Then again, I’m definitely not a doctor, but that’s what I gathered from the info I read.) In any case, I won’t be touching them anyway.

    Caterpillars don’t freak me out as much as they used to, but I still won’t touch them without wearing gloves or something. I did move a woolly bear caterpillar out of the way yesterday when we were tearing out the forsythia, but I was wearing leather work gloves.

    Hope your daughter is feeling better!

  7. Alyssa says:

    ive seen a caterpiler llike that in a bush,it was right on the edge of the bush.I don’t know what happend but whan my mom walked right beside it all of a suddon my mom said,”ouch.”

  8. Clare says:

    I caught the same caterpillar and only used a leaf to touch him. Then I was planning on taking him out and playing with him a little,but then I saw this!

  9. Jeffery says:

    omg! i got bit by one in the mountains at north carolina. do not touch these little devils.

  10. Val says:

    These caterpillars do not sting. HOWEVER their hairs do come off and lodge into your skin where they then inject something similar to the venom of a bee sting. My little guys were outside playing with one and boy have they paid the price. Welts, itching, redness and irritation. They even kissed the caterpillar and therefore their lips itch (my little girl is even complaining of her tongue itching)….. The websites I read recommended using some sort of tape (like duct tape) to remove the hairs and then bathing followed by use of anti itch meds for comfort. DO NOT TOUCH!!!!!

  11. Williams says:

    Husband had this white hairy caterpillar land on his neck and not just large welts as well as later flowing into one great big welt all across the back of his neck and up into his hair . Welts up and down both arms. He started benadryl that night and every 4 hours next day still had some welts on arms and still taking benadryl. We took carful watch of his breathing wich seemed alright. After about 16 hours he is down to about three small welts.

    Sept. 22 2009

  12. Meghan says:

    Oh my gosh. I caught one and i live in new york and i let that little demon crawl all over my hands. I swear i think it bit me.

    I don’t know if these things do the same thing as in other states but once i read this i couldnt believe i touched them. Now im all worried. :X email me for informationn

    Im a weirdo and i play with lots of catapillars. I found a black one like this one but it turned out that one was fine. Once i read this i washed my hands o.0 oh man.

  13. Heather says:

    My 2 sons and I held this type of caterpiller yesterday, and we all broke out in one son rubbed his eye and it is closed shut today. Never ever hold one! Please….you’ll pay! Big Time!

  14. Cynthia says:

    My daughter found two of these today. Shortly after playing with them she developed a rash around her neck and on her hand. I tried to research with little luck. Called poison control. These caterpillars have little barbs that you can’t see that get on your skin and cause a rash. Was told to remove first with a gauze tape then to remove and wash all clothes that might have been in contact with this caterpillar and to bath her. After all this no more pain or itch and rash looks somewhat better after 3 hrs. Before calling them I had given her calymine lotion and benedryl. I thought they were cute and love my daughter’s curiousity, but guess next time we’ll do are research first. Beware!

  15. Carol-Missouri says:

    One of these fell on my neck out of the tree.I brushed him off without thinking.It looks like I have poison oak all over my neck,Chest, and in between my fingers.

  16. Heather says:

    Be careful with these guys! My little girl is very sensitive to the toxins they release and now carries an epi pen due to her severe reaction. She was playing with them with her siblings and was the only one to react but was in pain for almost a week! The doc said that if you enhale the little hairs with the toxin you can have your throat swell shut!

  17. Lanya says:

    My 4 yr old also thought this thing was cute, yup red itchy welts avoid this caterpillar – HE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND!!!

  18. daclaren says:

    Ok folks…time to close the comments on this one. I really appreciate all of the comments, but we’re still getting them two YEARS later! I think we all get the point – don’t touch the fuzzy white caterpillars. :)