I was surprised to see these when I did for a couple of reasons. The first one is that I don’t expect much from the forever unwanted milkweed that seems to creep up every year. Don’t get me wrong, it does attract its fair share of creatures (mostly green bottle flies and the occasional butterfly), but never anything that caught my eye like these. Sure, they are just caterpillars from some boring moth eating the leaves of a weed, but it was something about the way I found them that made me take a greater interest.
The first thing that caught my eye was the vibrant yellow-orange colored tufts that lined the body. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pet it. The next thing I noticed was the fact that there was more than one. It seemed like each time I noticed another one, more and more would pop into my field of vision. There was a pretty good number of these things climbing all over the plant, either munching the leaves or making their way up the vines to get to the leaves. While observing them, I came across the perfect photo op. Two of them were crawling up the stalk almost in a mirror image of each other. They were a perfect example of symmetry in nature. Part of me wants to say that it was a sign from the universe especially for me and it’s my mission to interpret the meaning, but the boring part of me says it’s because there’s only enough room for one on either side and they both reached the top of the stalk with nowhere else to go. Oh well… enough of me now.
The Tussock Moth caterpillars are really good at eating. Like me. They are able to reduce leaves to a skeletal state in record time. Like me… except by leaves I mean whatever is on my plate. One interesting tidbit is that they acquire their chemical defenses from their host plants. This kind of gives a purpose to that milkweed I neglect to get rid of year after year… I’m saving Tussock Moths.