We are about at the acme of caterpillar abundance and diversity. The winged creatures - butterflies and moths - that produce these wriggling bags of goo as ACT II of their four-pronged life cycle (egg, caterpillar, cocoon/chrysalis, moth/butterfly) are but the most obvious and often very ephemeral stages of an incredibly important group of animals. Caterpillars are by far the most numerous herbivores in the landscape, and without them there would be utter ecological collapse. Most of our songbirds would vanish, many other animals would disappear, plants would run amok, and many of the products that we depend upon in our daily lives would vanish as well.
Get rid of caterpillars, and it probably wouldn't be long before we'd go down the tubes as well.
In my wanderings of the last few weeks, I've had the good fortune to cross paths with some of our coolest cats. Ironically, in most cases the adult moths that most of these will become if all goes well are obscure little brown jobs that are seldom noticed.
This one is high atop my list of favorites. It is a stinging rose caterpillar, Parasa indetermina. They are beyond outrageous in appearance and resemble a colorful sea slug. Those columns of spines aren't just for ornamentation - they pack one heck of a sting, supposedly. Stinging rose caterpillars can be diverse in coloration, and in some individuals the lemon-yellow is replaced by orange, red, or even pinkish tones. Like many moth species, they're garbage heads that eat many plants. We found this one on a sycamore.
When you're out and about, carefully scan leaves and plants and sooner than later you'll find some very cool cats.