On a recent week-long portaging trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old childhood friend, the caterpillar. As a child, I loved these little guys, and would actively seek them out in the woods around my house. I put them in boxes, pet the fuzzy ones, marveled at the big stripey smooth ones, and eventually let them go on their way. I hadn’t thought about these little critters in a long time. Then I found this guy:
This was one of my favourites as a kid; the Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar. The moth itself is fairly unremarkable, but the caterpillar is exquisite!! Also sometimes called the Yellow Woollybear (could it be any cuter, jeez?) Although their fuzziness is almost unbearable, their hairs can sometimes irritate the skin, though I don’t remember this ever happening to me.
This really made me think about the other caterpillars I used to encounter as a young nature nerd. Have you ever seen one of these?
This little beauty is the Monarch Caterpillar, the very same that turns into easily the most recognizable black and orange butterfly. This was a rare find as a kid. They are soft, smooth and their feet feel like tiny bits of velcro.
Not all caterpillars were as charming as these two. Anyone growing up in Northern Ontario in the early 90’s might remember these intruders:
This is a Forest Tent Caterpillar, a species that experiences a boom every decade or so, to varying degrees of horror. A specific outbreak in the early 90’s in Ontario was particularly disgusting, deforesting vast areas and blanketing towns in squirmy, fuzzy grossness. I remember the sidewalks becoming a living, moving entity. Tree trunks were wrapped in metal to prevent the little buggers from climbing them. They would drop from the branches of the crab apple tree in my front yard onto my unsuspecting head. And, unfortunately, I remember the sound they made as I ran them over with my bike. Like a squishy popping noise. I couldn’t help it, really. They were everywhere.