This mystery caterpillar was found on a bicycle seat! The house where it was seen is in central Maryland, on a very wooded lot in a rural area. It had a red head, four white bumps on its back, was very fuzzy and had brown hairs on the rear jutting up like a tail. We took care not to touch as it could possibly be a stinging variety. It was coaxed onto a stick and returned to the woods. Any idea what it is? Thanks.
Your mystery caterpillar is a white-marked tussock.
They are distinctively marked and are common in wooded areas of Eastern US.
The caterpillars feed on a wide range of trees and shrubs(found one on my hibiscus a couple of weeks ago). The list of plants from David Wagner’s book includes – birch, black locust, cherry, elm, hackberry, hickory, oak, rose, willow…fir, hemlock, larch, spruce and other conifers.
It overwinters in the egg stage. These eggs are laid in a froth-covered mass by wingless females.
It is a good thing to avoid the hair, it is known to cause allergic reactions, especially in areas of the body with sensitive skin like stomach, inner arms, etc.