Tussock moth caterpillars have barbed, hair-like projections that act as a defensive measure against predation (they are not poisonous or venomous). Younger children are more susceptible to the rash caused by touching these than are adults, and they are also more likely to play with them.
The caterpillars’ hairs can cause skin irritation in some people. The rash is usually mild and only lasts for a day or less.
Tussock moth caterpillar hairs penetrate your skin and release a toxic fluid, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This reaction can be mild to severe, depending on your sensitivity level. This allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock in very rare instances if the person has a highly sensitive immune system.
What do tussock moth caterpillars eat?
When caterpillars, banded tussock moths feed on leaves of many varieties of hardwood trees.
Banded tussock moths are fairly large moths. The front wings are yellow-brown, with black bands and white spots. The hind wings are mostly white. Some people say the moth looks like it has a Mohawk haircut!
The caterpillars are fuzzy and have four pairs of long, black bristles (hairs) on the back and one pair at the front end. There is also very short hair at the tip of its tail (the rear body end).
The caterpillars are known for feeding in large groups. When not feeding, the caterpillars spin silk mats under which they rest during the day. At night, the caterpillars emerge from the silk mats to feed in large groups on tree leaves. They eat all but the mid-vein of a leaf before moving to another one. Caterpillars can strip foliage from large areas of forest, leaving just skeletons of branches in their wake.
Are White Tussock moth caterpillars poisonous?
The White Tussock Moth isn’t the only caterpillar that can cause a skin rash. There are several other species that can hurt you.
The White Tussock Moth Caterpillar is not poisonous. However, it has hairs on its body that can cause a skin rash. The hairs are barbed, which means they can break off under the skin and cause irritation. This irritation is usually temporary but sometimes requires medical attention if complications develop.
The White Tussock Moth Caterpillar is found on the East Coast of North America and Canada and in parts of California and Arizona. It is common on many trees and shrubs, especially in late summer.
In closing, it should be noted that the easiest way to avoid an allergic reaction from a tussock moth caterpillar is to not touch them. The tussock moth caterpillar is an intriguing species with a few unique features. However, it’s the defense mechanism that really sets it apart. While other moth species use toxic or venomous chemicals to ward off predators, others can effectively defend themselves through camouflage. But the tussock moth caterpillar’s barbed hairs set them apart from the crowd.