Strange looking critter picked up cautiously with shovel
A little while back while moving my firewood pile to a new location, I came upon an initially scary looking furry creature.
Balled-up (presumably frightened), I thought this could be a caterpillar but was uncertain.
So, after snapping a few pictures, I went inside and googled every descriptive word regarding its appearance, and quickly was able to identify this monster as the Giant Leopard Moth (in caterpillar stage of course).
It turns out this caterpillar is not a monster at all. Though many bristled, furry caterpillars are toxic if touched, the Giant Leopard Moth is harmless to humans. In fact, many children adore these critters and keep them as pets.
Found mainly in eastern & southern USA from New England to Mexico, this caterpillar has a thick bristly black coat & shows orange and red color bands as it curls into a ball formation when frightened (as seen in my snapshots above).
Though craving daylight as a caterpillar, it becomes nocturnal as soon as it transforms into a moth and then sports a 3" wingspan.
The Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar is not considered a pest with the possible exception in pastures.
This insect is strikingly beautiful in both caterpillar & moth stage