Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the June 16, 2008 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:
A COLORFUL TUSSOCK MOTH CATERPILLAR
While tearing down an old building we came across the fuzzy, very pretty caterpillar you can see above.
That's a Tussock Moth caterpillar, one of the most distinctive and easy-to-identify of all caterpillars. Tussock Moth caterpillars always have a pair of pencil-like hair tufts at the front, a single similar tuft on the rear end, and four short, thick tufts on the back. I'm guessing that this is the caterpillar stage of the common White-marked Tussock Moth, HEMEROCAMPA LEUCOSTIGMA, which belongs to the Tussock Moth Family, the Liparidae, of which the most famous member is the introduced and destructive Gypsy Moth.
Tussock Moth caterpillars feed on many kinds of trees and shrubs and hatch in late spring. A curious thing about the moths is that the females are practically wingless, looking like fat, fuzzy cockroaches. The males are plain-looking, grayish, hairy little moths you'd hardly notice. As far south as we are, two generations are produced in a single season.