Io You

…mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.

~E.O. Wilson

Io caterpillar

Io Moth caterpillar (click photos to enlarge)

Here is another of my favorite caterpillars, the Io, Automeris io. Beautiful, but it is also one of the so-called “stinging caterpillars”. The urticating spines contain a venom that can cause a painful sting. I have found this species several times on a variety of host plats, this time on a willow here in Chatham County.

Io caterpillar 2

The bristly appearance of an Io larva from above

If ever there was a caterpillar that you should think to yourself, maybe I shouldn’t touch this, the Io is it. The large spines are in distinct clusters and are found over the entire dorsal surface of its body. They do not try to hide since they are well-armed against most predators.

Io caterpillar head

Close up of caterpillar head showing ominous-looking clusters of spines

This one in in its last instar, and has crawled off the willow, indicating it may be ready to pupate. They form a loose, papery cocoon on the ground. I am hoping it waits until after BugFest, but only the Io knows for sure.

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