This is a Puss Caterpillar, the larval stage of the Southern Flannel Moth. This caterpillar is also known as the Tree Asp or Asp Caterpillar. It is so named because of the vicious sting it is reported to give. The fur of this caterpillar contains numerous venom releasing spines that can cause severe reactions in people. Radiating pain and burning, nausea, swelling, rashes, blisters, and difficulty breathing have all been described by people who have been stung by these caterpillars. These critters look furry and sweet, but if you every come across one, please use extreme caution.
This was the first specimen of a Puss Caterpillar I had every encountered. I did not even know such a creature existed. My instincts served me well, though, and I avoided touching the caterpillar.
Instead, I put the caterpillar in an acrylic container along with some leaves from the holly plant I found him on, and placed the whole thing on the bookshelf in my study. The caterpillar fed voraciously, and quickly soiled the container.
Six days later, strands of silk in the enclosure indicated that the caterpillar was ready to pupate. The next day, October 26, the caterpillar was fully enclosed in a silken shroud.
On December 13, roughly 43 days later, an adult female Southern Flannel Moth emerged from the cocoon.
The female moth is distinguishable from the male by its antennae. Male Southern Flannel Moths have plumose (feathery) antennae.
On December 14 the moth began laying eggs. She died eight days later after laying several hundred eggs.
It is not clear if the adult moth can be expected to deliver the same kind of sting as the caterpillar form. Maybe one of our readers can fill us in on this detail.
|Date||–||Oct 19, 2008 – Dec 12, 2008|
|Time of Day||–||Various|
|Type of Behavior||–||Metamorphosis|
|Main Article||–||Southern Flannel Moth||Observation Location|