you tell me what kind of caterpillar this is? I found it eating the
leaves on a young oak tree planted this spring. I was worried that
it would damage the young tree. After I picked it off, my hand
started to really hurt, but I don’t think it bit me.
writer attached a picture of a hickory tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa
caryae). This is a native species, found from Nova Scotia to North
Carolina and west to Ontario, Wisconsin and Texas. In addition to
oaks, they are frequently found feeding on ash, elm, hickory, maple
and other trees. While these caterpillars can eat a great deal of
foliage, they generally are not considered life-threatening for
trees. This is because they feed late in the growing season when
trees have already set their buds. Also, the trees will soon be
losing their leaves for the onset of winter.
Insects that cause defoliation early in the growing season, such as
gypsy moth caterpillars, are much more cause for concern, because
trees respond by sending out a second flush of leaves. This uses up
their carbohydrate reserves because it requires a great deal of
energy to leaf out a second time in a single season. When trees are
defoliated in spring for three or four consecutive years, they often
die because they have no carbohydrate reserves left.
Watch for this one!
Your hand hurt because many species of caterpillars – including
hickory tussock moth and gypsy moth – are clothed in stinging hairs
to protect them from predators. As much as your hand hurt, can you
imagine what would happen to the unwary bird that tried to eat one?
As a rule of thumb, avoid handling furry caterpillars because many
are armed with such stinging hairs.
sooth the reddening, swelling and discomfort, use ice and/or
calamine lotion. More sensitive individuals may need to visit a
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