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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bizarre but Common

Found this handsome but bizarre specimen crawling on my trailer yesterday. Oddly enough, someone from New England posted a picture of one too. I suppose it's just the right time for them. I'm thinking White-marked tussock moth. Here's my thinking.

white marked tussock moth caterpillar

I knew it was some kind of tussock moth caterpillar but had to go hunting to figure out which one. I'm sure it's an Orgyia Say or-GEE-ya. The name itself is interesting. Orgyia means "to stretch out," because of its habit of extending its forelegs, but after that I'm not positive if it's leucostigma, or detrita Leuco=white (think leucocytes= white blood cells), and stigma=marks (think stigmata=the marks in Jesus' hands and feet). See you knew more Greek than you thought.

So... I think it's leucostigma because detrita has bright orange spots along the sides. I see no orange spots. I looked at pictures of the other one, and those gray-white tufts at the centers of the starbursts of hairs on the sides (not the toothbrushy things on its back) would be bright orange.

white marked tussock moth caterpillar

Here's a really good flat-on top view.

white marked tussock moth caterpillar

Now I need to find one of the moths hiding in plain sight.

Just in case you were interested, "orgyia" is also the origin of the idea of a fathom, a nautical measure equal to 6 feet. But it came from stretching out the arms, a distance of about 6 feet. That will sure help me remember how long a fathom is.

AND, I suddenly was hit with the notion that moth caterpillars are furry and butterfly caterpillars are smooth. I wondered if this was really true. The answer reads like one of those logic problems from school. All butterfly caterpillars are smooth, but not all moth caterpillars are furry. Got that? (according to Purdue University!)

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Ann Thompson said...

Ive never seen one of those before. Quite unique looking

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Ann- I'm not sure I'd seen this exact one, but i must have- quite common, actually.

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