Good morning, everyone. Yesterday, when I got home from an errand, I found a furry black caterpillar on the side of my front door. I’ve never seen this before! The closest thing to this that I’ve seen is the brown and black “woolly bear” we used to play with as kids. (“Woolly bears” are the caterpillars of the tiger moth.) Of course, we don’t have those down here in South Carolina, so I didn’t know what this was. What I did know is that I shouldn’t touch it because hairy caterpillars are often poisonous. So, it was on to Google for some research.
I took pictures of this little guy, so I could figure out what he was.
After looking through a few pictures, it seemed like this was the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth. However, the way to be sure, was to check for the orange or red banding underneath the hairs. Well, even though the sites stated that this caterpillar isn’t one of the poisonous ones, I didn’t want to touch it. So, I prodded it with a stick, attempting to make it curl into a ball. That did the trick. Look at the red banding.
I didn’t know what an adult Giant Leopard Moth looked like because I had never seen one (that I can remember), which isn’t surprising because they are fully nocturnal. Look how gorgeous they are!
These moths are common from Ontario, Canada, down the eastern and southern states of the United States and into Mexico. At night, the female moth lays her eggs on broad leaf plants that the caterpillars can eat. They like plants such as violets, dandelions, honeysuckles, magnolia, lilac, and even basil.
When winter comes, the caterpillars stop eating and search for a protected place to hibernate for the winter – which is what I think my caterpillar was doing. (Hotel Sanctuary Gardens, at your service.) Once the cold of winter has passed, the caterpillars create cocoons and exit as moths in the spring.
So, somewhere on my homestead, I’m betting I have several of these little guys looking for a place to hunker down for the winter. Maybe one night in the spring, I will catch sight of one of them – as a beautiful Giant Leopard Moth.
Have you ever seen one of these caterpillars?