Be Careful Handling this Skin-Irritating Minnesota Caterpillar
My mom is basically running a caterpillar sanctuary this fall. There are so many varieties living around her house, it's insane.
One of the pictures I got yesterday was of a Virginian Tiger Moth caterpillar, or more commonly known as Yellow Wooly Bears. These guys are a rusty orange color and completely covered in thin, long, dark hairs. The bristles are not poisonous, but they can cause skin irritation to sensitive skin.
The bristles of the caterpillar contain toxins that break away when they come in contact with human skin, causing mild to intense burning and itching depending on the handler's skin.
These caterpillars mature between May and November every year and are found throughout North America, mainly out east.
If you are looking for them in Minnesota, the best places to find them are plantings around yards and gardens, also in bottomlands, woodlands, and forests. Their diet consists of growing plants, shrubs, and trees and really like milkweed as well.
In my experience, it's best to always err on the side of caution when handling insects. Observing with your eyes can save your skin from itching. Have fun checking out all the fun fall insects hanging out before the hibernation season!