Monday, November 7, 2011

A Strange Visitor

I have no idea how this guy (or gal?) got in our house, but we found it trucking right across our kitchen floor.  It obviously took a wrong turn somewhere!

I've never seen a caterpillar that looked quite like this one, with the black spikes protruding from its body.  Our dogs found it interesting, too, so we quickly scooped it up and took it outside right after snapping this picture.


Kristi said...

We were VERY interested in woolly worms this fall and I can venture a stab at those spikes. It might be TOTALLY off but here is what we *think* is going on.

This fall we found woolly worms that looked like there were molting. As if they shed one fuzzy layer only to have another one grow in underneath it. On these weird caterpillars we noticed the older fluff was longer than the new.

So, assuming we did not just completely make this up from a weird dream, we think that those tall black spiky hairs are actually left over from the last layer of fuzz and the brown fuzz is the new layer growing in.

We might be completely wrong since we did not do any research to confirm our thoughts but I toss them out to you for you to ponder. :)

Heidi said...

Interesting theory, Kristi! We saw another one just like it outside (or maybe it was the one I booted! Ha!). Those spikes were just as much of a mystery as how it got in the house!

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I found a Michigan caterpillar identification website and I may have identified your caterpillar. Here is the link to the site:

Its scientific name is Halysidota tessellaris and its common name is Banded Tussock Moth, or pale tiger moth. The map shows that it's found in Michigan, among other places in the eastern US.

The fourth pic down looks like yours as does the last couple pics when you scroll all the way down.

From what I can gather, these caterpillars (adults) have a chemical defense, which you would have felt. They feed on plants that contain alkaloids, which have some pretty interesting properties.
I tried to find plants that contain alkaloids, like poppies, but some of the plant names were confusing... lol

"Adults are attracted to decaying plants that have Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (Krasnof and Dussourd, 1989). They regurgitate on them and then drink the fluids to acquire these defensive chemicals."

Anyway, just thought I'd share. ;-)


Heidi said...

Thanks, Pam! That pic certainly does look like the one that invaded my kitchen. Very interesting!