CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: VIRGINIA CTENUCHA (Teh-Noo-Cha)
Welcome back for another edition of COTW! This week we will set our sights on the Virgnia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) in the Tiger & Lichen moth subfamily (Erebidae: Arctiinae).
With bright warning coloration and tufts of barb-like hairs covering its body, everything about this caterpillar says “DON’T TRY TO EAT ME OR I WILL MESS YOU UP!” But even though it looks like it could be a venomous species, it’s actually quite harmless to humans.
Both the common name of the caterpillar AND its subfamily are a little bit misleading as well. The name implies that it might only be found in Virginia, but this is a wide-spread native species in most of Canada & the USA which is actually more commonly found further north than in Virginia! This newest addition to our growing army of caterpillars was found under a rock near an airport in our hometown of Keene, NH.
Additionally, being in the Tiger & Lichen moth subfamily (Arctiinae), you’re led to assume the adult would resemble some moss on a tree or have bright spots or stripes, but moths of this caterpillar are actually a very convincing WASP MIMIC!
Stay tuned for more about the Virginia Ctenucha! Also, always feel free to ask us if there's anything you'd like to learn about our caterpillars of the week that we might have left out.
-Jace Rearing Specialist TCL