Today we will attempt to identify the creature in a photograph one of our readers sent us. She didn’t include any questions or details about discovering this specimen, in fact she didn’t write any text at all, she just sent this photo. We will assume she wants to know what the organism is! The picture shows an extremely fuzzy caterpillar. It is mainly black, but there is a small strip of brown on its underside:
As most of our frequent readers know, identifying caterpillars can be tricky business. While sometimes we can rely on their looks alone to make an identification, other times we use helpful hints like the geographical location in which they were found or the plant they were found on or near. Since our reader didn’t provide any details about this caterpillar, we will have to rely on its appearance alone!
Luckily, this caterpillar is fairly unique looking and we think we know what it is! We think this specimen belongs to the Tiger moth family (Arctiidae). We believe the specimen our reader found is a Garden Tiger moth larva. The Garden Tiger moth is a widely distributed creature found throughout the British Isles, Northern Europe, North America, and Northern Asia. The caterpillars eat a wide range of grasses, garden crops, shrubs, and trees.
While adult Tiger moths are named for their wing markings (orange and black on a white background), Tiger moth larvae have a much cuter nickname – wooly worms! These caterpillars are often kept as classroom pets and some even say they can predict weather patterns like a groundhog! Since Tiger moth caterpillars are fuzzy, anyone who handles one should act with extreme caution. The hairs of caterpillars typically cause irritation and discomfort. The adult Garden Tiger moth also is equipped with a defense mechanism. These moths exude a smelly liquid that is a deterrent to predators. Hopefully, our reader didn’t touch this caterpillar or threaten it to warrant its smelly liquid release!
To wrap up, we believe the fuzzy black caterpillar that our reader sent us a photograph of is a Garden Tiger moth larva. These caterpillars are found all over the world and mature into stunning moths!