Hood Ornament

Back at the farm after a brief trip up the hill for the newspaper, I discovered this passenger on the hood:

Cocoon Soon.JPG

Orgyia leucostigma — the taxonomic designation given it in 1797 by no less distinguished a naturalist than James Edward Smith, founder of the Linnean Society (and, as if he wasn't already impressive enough, the man who bought Linnaeus's personal collection — books and specimens — after the father of taxonomy died).

The caterpillar — also identified as Hemerocampa leucostigma — was a stunner and I was happy simply to watch it explore the Geo's hood for awhile. During that while, the vague bell going off in my head about yellow and tufted caterpillars kept me from touching it, which was a sound decision. Evidently its fine "nettling hairs" can cause allergic reactions.  

Energetic, fast, and beautiful:

I took its measure:

the measure of the moth.jpg

And wondered if I would encounter — and doubtless be far less captivated by — any of its offspring when they emerge as White-marked Tussock Moths:


At present the moths are not a serious pest — according to one site, while their population can explode to epidemic proportions, such explosions are rare. They do more aesthetic damage to shade trees and ornamentals than anything else, and the aesthetics of the larva I spent part of this humid Sunday afternoon with seem to me to outweigh the risks.