ginger caterpillar, Megalopyge albicollis (4)

photo: Flickr user Valcir F. de Siqueira

ginger caterpillar, Megalopyge albicollis (5)

photo: Flickr user Ilza Maria Noronha

Habitat: Central America
Status: Not Listed

What may look like a wandering piece of fluff from a lost toupee is actually the caterpillar of the Flannel Moth Megalopyge albicollis. Most predators aren’t thrilled to go after a ginger-colored disembodied clump of hair but on the rare occasion that something or someone goes after it, the flannel moth caterpillar has a sneaky, painful trick up its hairy sleeve.

^ see this guy holding the caterpillar above? Don’t do that. I mean, you can, but it’s just not a good idea… because hiding underneath the pleasant, fluffy exterior of this caterpillar are poisonous spines which are able to pierce skin and can produce an extreme allergic reaction in the individual which includes symptoms like rashes, blisters, inflammation, and breathing difficulty. I know it may look very tempting to pick up and stroke – but save the petting for puppies.

When the caterpillar is ready to become a moth, it transforms into this rather dull looking creature; losing its fabulous ginger coloring entirely. Kind of anticlimactic but at least it had a good run as a bizarrely terrifying fluff ball.

photo: Flickr user LPJC