Recently found trying to climb up my walls and baskets.. now I’ve noticed them all over the outside of my garage.. where my pine trees are located..
This caterpillar probably turns into the Elegant Tussock moth (Euchaetes elegans). Without a good side view it could be one of the other tussock caterpillars. The coloration is very similar to another milkweed tussock without a common name Euchaetes antica . It could be that one. The information is the same for both.
The elegant tussock is found in SW United States east to TX, while Euchaetes antica is found mostly in AZ. Larvae feed on milkweeds. Do you have milkweed plants near your pines? Many of the milkweed tussock caterpillars are gregarious while young. The moth lays a hundred eggs on a leaf. So, you will see dozens of small caterpillars on the same leaf. Then as they molt and become much larger they move away from each other – so there is enough foliage to eat!
Later instars (late stage, older caterpillars) will snap their heads side to side and sometimes drop to the ground when threatened.
The adult moth is white with a bright orange abdomen on the top side, white with black spots underneath the abdomen. The adult Euchaetes antica moth has black wings with a yellow-orange stripe along the outer wing and a bright orange abdomen. Adults are known to play dead when handled. Then the bright orange abdomen shows up to scare predators away 🙂 Milkweed plants have a toxin that any insect that feeds on them contain…predators have learned that the orange color indicates it is best not to eat it.
These caterpillars are not known to cause a rash when handled, however some of the related tussock caterpillars can, so it is best to not handle them.