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Caterpillar Appearance Heralds Autumn’s Arrival

This hairy cucumber is an Imperial Moth caterpillar which was spotted at the Breeze Ranch on Sunday, September 18. The adult moth varies from 3 1/8 to 6 7/8 inches, and is greenish yellow in color with purplish brown camouflage-type markings on the body and wings. Caterpillars vary in appearance according to their growth cycles, but they tend to be large in size, growing up to 4 inches long. This particular caterpillar was olive green in color with white spots along its side and long white hairs along the body.

Various subspecies of Imperial Moths can be found from Argentina to Canada and from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, the moth has been on the decline for many years, especially in the New England states. The larvae prefer pine, maple, oak, box elder, and sassafras. If you see an Imperial Moth caterpillar, do not handle it, because its long hairs can cause skin irritation and rashes.

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