“What is this?” is all this reader asks about the brown-headed, black and white-striped worm-like creature he found in the photograph below. In this article, we will do our best to tackle this profound question.
Luckily, the photo our reader includes in his submission is very sharp and the lighting is decent, meaning we get a clear look at the physical characteristics of the creature, which in turn makes it easier to identify it. Solely based on the creature’s physical appearance, we have identified this as a striped garden caterpillar. Oddly enough, as common as the name makes it sound, there is little information on this critter that is easily accessible. But the little that we do know, we will share here. The black and white-striped state that this caterpillar is in is only what it looks like at one of its younger stages. Later, the caterpillar’s black stripes will turn brown, and its white ones will turn yellow, and they can grow up to 1.4-inches in length. Then, skipping past the pupal stage, the adult striped garden moth is a mottled gray color, with a complex pattern of light browns, blacks, whites and grays (which might make a good pattern for an oriental rug) adorning its wings, which span 1-1.5-inches and sit under a mane of fur that frames its head.
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According to Iowa State University’s BugGuide.net page on striped garden caterpillars, these critters tend to eat a range of “woody and herbaceous plants”, such as cherry, raspberry, tobacco, asparagus, and mustard plants. That said, although all of these plants yield products that are consumed by humans, they are not typically found inside people’s households like this one seems to have been. The natural habitat of the striped garden caterpillar is actually open prairie, or generally any open area of grass or flowers. There are no records of this caterpillar being harmful to the touch or dangerous in any way, but naturally we advise caution if and when handling an unfamiliar creature, as we always do. Allergic reactions can occur when making skin-to-skin contact with caterpillars, regardless if they produce any toxins. Other than that, our reader should not worry about having found this inside his home (assuming that is the case), so we recommend gently moving this caterpillar outside using a dustpan and calling it a day.
To conclude, we want to thank our reader for sending in this excellent photo of this striped garden caterpillar. We hope that our answer to his question proves satisfactory and insightful, and we welcome any other questions our reader might have about this caterpillar or any other worm-like creatures he might be wondering about!
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