This caterpillar is a thing of great beauty, and the swan in a reverse ugly duckling story. The caterpillar is fantastically ornamented with dense fascicles of stinging spines, and no matter how great the urge to stroke one of these, I would resist temptation. Some authorities say that Saddlebacks pack among the greatest punches of any North American caterpillar. Those stinging spines will leave a blistering rash that will smart for quite some time. So, admire the bristly little beast wearing the lime-green horse blanket from afar. The adult phase - the moth - probably wouldn't interest you nearly as much as this larva. It is a rather plain brown Jane.
Amanda Duren spotted this animal on a nocturnal foray in Ashtabula County, Ohio, last Wednesday night. Of course, we briefly detained the animal for a photo shoot before returning it to the maples. Neither caterpillar or photographers were harmed in the process.