Wednesday, July 06, 2005

White cats

You wouldn't think it would be so difficult to identify a plain white fuzzy caterpillar.

But it is.

I believe it is the white form of Spilosoma virginica - the Virginian Tiger Moth, a.k.a. Yellow Woolybear.

On the BugGuide web site, there are just a few references to the white form. The other forms look so different!

The adult moth is fairly attractive, as moths go.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES!) offers Identifying Caterpillars in Field, Forage, and Horticultural Crops.

There is an extensive key that goes along with the publication, but having neglected to count the caterpillar's legs, I was lost.

At first glance I thought this might be one of the many stinging caterpillars present in Alabama, which is part of the reason I wasn't too keen on leg-counting.

But after looking through the pictures, I don't think so. (That page would be so much better with thumbnails.)

I have a strong "better safe than sorry" policy when it comes to things that sting or bite. I guess I should have tried to get the caterpillar to climb onto a stick for further ID purposes, but there was Jasmine to consider. She tends to have a strong "stick your nose right on it" policy.


Edited to add:
More info on stinging caterpillars is here and here. For specifics in your area, try googling the name of your state or province along with the words "stinging caterpillars".


swamp4me said...

I have a folder of unknowns on my computer. It has a picture of a very similar-looking caterpillar in it. Like you, I wasn't too keen on counting the prolegs of something that had the potential of causing me grief. :)

Hope you don't get too much rain out of Cindy.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures...
And I like your selection of Films..

robin andrea said...

Sorry-- I can't help with identification. I did learn something, though, reading this post: Some caterpillars sting! OMG. I had no idea. I will be much careful in the future. Thanks for the info.
Nice photos, as usual.

Rurality said...

S4M we have already gotten a ton. I ran off to my meeting early last night to beat the worst of it. The storm was over by the time we got out, but the fog made for sloooow driving home.

Thanks Vincentt!

RD I updated with a few more stinging caterpillar links. I've never been stung by one, but have always been warned against any caterpillar that looks remotely hairy.

Crowe said...

Whatever it is, it's very beautiful.

Dave said...

Thanks for sharing these. A wondrous little being, I'd say - though I'm not sure I'd have paid too much attention without a camera lens capable of doing it justice.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. Thank you for sharing it.

I had no idea some sting, either.

The tiger moth looks like a snow queen with a white mink collar and velvet coat.

I only found your blog last week and already, I've learned a lot from visiting here.

Vancouver, Canada

Ontario Wanderer said...

I think I knew that some caterpillars sting, but I forgot. Thanks for the reminder! I also did not know, until this morning when I read in my insect book, that the insect that I want to put on my blog today could "inflict a very painful bite." I had it all over my hand at one point. Glad I did not learn the hard way.

Unknown said...

what a cute bug! it looks kinda like a dandelion puff.

R.Powers said...

As a kid I was climbing high in a wisteria vine that wrapped around two great pines in my parent's yard. As I reached up for the next rung on the vine ladder, a shower of saddleback caterpillars fell down onto my bare neck and back. I don't remember how I got back down, but I know it was fast and I was one hurting little boy.

Rurality said...

Thanks all.

Dave it's funny how much more I notice things with a camera in hand. :)

Thanks Lisa! You're right - I used to have the best book about the Snow Queen when I was a kid, and the moth does remind me of that, now that I think about it.

FC, ouchie!

OW hope you got a picture at least. :)

Anonymous said...

Actually, it looks a lot like the white stinging caterpillar that got me. I have been trying to ID the little "innocent". It was white and fuzzy, thereby attracting the attention of my then 17-y-o self. It left two large red blotches and my leg was numb. It was NE Oklahoma in 1979. I would love help with the ID if anyone has ideas.


Jackie Lee said...

OMG I just found a bunch of the same caterpillars today! They were eating my moms lily plants. I stuck them in a terrarium so my daughter could watch them change into butterflies/moths. I hope we don't have the stinging kind lol ~ We just grabbed the leaves they were on and dropped them in. I found your blog trying to find out what they were!! Thanks!

Jackie Lee

Jackie Lee said...

Hey I just found this post, and the caterpillar looks the same but they say it's something else ~ what do you think?