hag moth caterpillar, Phobetron pithecium

photo: Greg Dwyer

hag moth caterpillar,  Phobetron pithecium

photo via: marietta.edu

Habitat: Maine and Quebec to Florida, west to Nebraska, Arkansas and Mississippi
Status: No Conservation Concerns

Before I say anything about this bizarre creature I need you all to watch this video:

When I first saw this, I thought I was looking at some sort of demon creature that had escaped from the bowels of hell. Little did I know that I was just looking at a Monkey Slug Caterpillar a.k.a. a Hag Moth Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium). These weird caterpillars are pretty distinctive; they haveĀ  six hairy, curly projections spiraling out from their fuzzy body. The legs have been reduced to suction cups, which allows it to make the slug-like movement shown in the video above.

According to popular belief, the hairs on this caterpillar can sting you. However, when I referenced the compendium on all world knowledge, Wikipedia, I found that there was a guy named David L. Wagner who experimented on himself with these caterpillars to test if the hairs were in fact stingy (that’s a scientific term) and he found that they were not. However, some people have more sensitive skin than others and may have a reaction to the hairs. Basically, you can look at the Monkey Slug but don’t touch it. Somehow I feel like that won’t be that much of a challenge.