Sunday, 15 July 2018

Florida Tussock Caterpillars

These cool caterpillars are everywhere in South Florida now.  Not sure what caused their population to explode. But they do look pretty cool.  These are Orgyia detrita or Florida Tussock Caterpillars.  Very fuzzy animals.  But, be careful because touching them can cause dermatitis. 

Must of have been pretty hungry.  Check out those holes in the leave)))   They need all the energy they can get to spin their cocoon.  They usually spend four to six weeks eating as much as they can before cocooning themselves and emerging as moths.  Here is some scientific descriptions: Florida Tussock Caterpillars are characterized by hair pencils of black setae that extend forward from the prespiracular verrucae of the prothorax, a dorsal hair pencil of black setae on the eighth abdominal segment, dorsal tussocks on the first four abdominal segments, and mid-dorsal glandular structures on abdominal segments six and seven.

Their cocoons are constructed of silk and are usually found in protected places  such as in bark furrows, undersides of limbs, in tree cavities, under loose bark, and often under the soffits of buildings. Also, they are commonly spun in dense masses among the foliage of epiphytic bromeliads (Tillandsia spp.).

Usually, these caterpillars are harmless.  But now, they seem to be eating a lot of leaves. Check out the damage)))

This is what Tussock Caterpillars look like once they turn into moths.  The female moth completely lacks wigs and stays near her used cocoon.  It's the male Tussock moth's job to fly around and find her.   Once they mate, the female lays a huge amount eggs and protects them by secreting protective layer of frothy substance.  None of the adults eat, and usually die shortly after mating.

                                             Female                                                           Male

Oh, and there are also these caterpillars.  Not sure what these guys are.

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