Wow, such a big name for such a tiny, cute little guy! First I’ll say that sometimes not being a professional entomologist has its advantages. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. Back home we have similar-looking caterpillars (I understand now they are probably some type of moth or butterfly caterpillar) but we called them Wooly Worms (Wooly Bears, here in Australia). As kids, we picked them up by the dozens and would watch them crawl over our hands. So, even though these guys are a lot smaller than the ones I’m used to seeing, I didn’t hesitate in picking them up.
You may be wondering why I’m writing this as if there is some danger. Well, apparently these little guys (as well as many other species of caterpillars) can cause a skin sensitivity known as urticaria in some people. Some caterpillars do it through a poison that is secreted from the hollow hairs that cover them, and just touching them will cause itching or inflammation. Some have stiff hairs (poison-ready) that can break off in skin, sort of like a splinter. While still others have hairs sharp enough to pierce skin and transfer bacteria and other micro-organisms into the unlucky person or animal, which in turn can cause infections of different sorts. Now, I’m allergic to all sorts of things but strangely, I’ve had no reaction to these.
These little guys eventually become what is known as the Wasp Moth. And it makes sense that we are seeing the caterpillars because we’ve seen quite a few of the moths. My girls and I have always called them ‘bee moths’ because of their colours and stripes but apparently whoever named them thought they resembled wasps more. And in my research I found out that there are even different types of Wasp Moths — Orange Shoulder, White Antenna (see below), Orange Headed…you get the idea.
Here’s a picture of the final product.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/burtonandy/4367209106/