A cute, fuzzy caterpillar?

Although it's still unseasonably warm in St. Louis today, it's going to get cold again in a couple of days. Back to normal temps or slightly below, but it's going to feel pretty frigid after this heatwave. So I decided to get another couple of loads of firewood, in case I want to keep extra cozy when the temperature drops. Since the woodpile had a tarp on it and was undisturbed for most of the summer and fall, some mice had created a nest in there. (I saw them scamper away the first time I got wood this winter.)

They left a pretty interesting array of debris behind: dryer lint, feathers, grasses, plus food remnants like seed husks. Then there was this guy which I just discovered today -- the empty partial "shell" of a big black fuzzy caterpillar. I wonder if it was a woolly bear caterpillar? I like fuzzy caterpillars.


Then I turned it around and this cute fuzzy character turned into a monster!

What sort of hideous creature has a fuzzy black caterpillar head but a leathery, almost scaled reptilian body?

If I look at its size right now (about 1.5" or 4.0 cm) and extrapolate, this thing must have been at least three inches (7.5 cm) long. Take into account it probably shrunk a little from drying out, and it could have been even larger than that. Gulp.

Oh, and it has huge claws. Look at those pincers!:

A second set fell off when I was moving it around:

Just a horrible, terrible creature. I'm glad I didn't see it alive!

Then after the initial shock wore off and I thought about it a little, I realized that the "fur" on a caterpillar might be attached to an outer layer of skin, and that could have peeled off the back part of the body. Or maybe the caterpillar started to pupate but something went wrong. Also, those huge claws? They're just normal caterpillar feet, hooked and sharp to allow it to climb whatever it feels the need to climb.

So this was most likely just a regular cute fuzzy caterpillar, not some bizarre garden monstrosity. So nothing to worry about.

Unless you're not a fan of caterpillars and other garden inhabitants of the crawling variety. In that case, I'm sorry if I creeped you out today.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (February 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM)  

Yikes, what kinds of creatures do have in St Louis????

Unknown  – (February 19, 2011 at 5:44 PM)  

Caterpillar or not, that furry bit was quite scary looking.

Alan  – (February 20, 2011 at 8:49 AM)  

Sometimes it's best not to look too closely at garden inhabitants. I'm not going to stop doing it though. =)

p3chandan  – (February 21, 2011 at 3:20 AM)  

I hate caterpillars especially if one look something like yours there...really a monster and scary too!

Alan  – (February 21, 2011 at 6:39 AM)  

Some of them are quite beautiful, and without them there would be no butterflies and moths, so I'll tolerate the caterpillars. =)

JustInn014 –   – (March 29, 2011 at 1:03 PM)  

Looks like the leftovers of a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar. It would have (or should have) turned into a proper Giant Leopard Moth. When the caterpillar turns into a pupa, they don't use their hair to make a cocoon casing, unlike the Woolly Bear. The head you see is the old caterpillar one, which is shed to make way for the new developing Moth head.

Anonymous –   – (June 1, 2011 at 8:29 PM)  

I am so happy I found this bit about the black leathery looking thing with the poof on the end! When I was a little girl a friend of mine and me ran across the exact same thing inside of an old rotten tree. It bugged me for years wondering what that awful creepy thing could have been. It got to where, after 30 years I began to think I might have imagined what we found... BUT THERE IT IS!!!!! THANK YOU!!


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