Black fuzzy caterpillars are associated with a species of caterpillar known as the Isabella Tiger Moth, also called the banded woolly bear. These particular caterpillars are native to Canada and the United States. They are very noticeable caterpillars because of their black spiky bodies. If you look closely, you can see there are red stripes on their body at the base of the spikes. These black fuzzy caterpillars almost resemble small black, long porcupines. That is why so many people are afraid to touch these caterpillars when they come across them in the wild.
When the black fuzzy caterpillars are in their younger stages, they’ll have a brown midsection with black everywhere else. Their spikey exterior makes it easy for them to avoid getting eaten by predators. Not only are their spikey hairs sharp, but they can disguise their bodies too so that predators don’t see them. For example, if a predator happens to be nearby and the caterpillar can detect it, the caterpillar will roll up into a spikey ball and not move at all. As the predator leaves the area, the caterpillar will quickly move out of the environment to remain safe.
Black fuzzy caterpillars have a very healthy appetite. In fact, they are known to eat virtually anything they can come across. Aside from herbs, trees, leaves and other forms of vegetation, they will also feast on wood as well. If you have piles of wood or any sort of wooden furniture lying outside your home, do not be surprised if you find these caterpillars roaming around on it. Some of their favorite plant types include magnolias, basil, willows, mulberry trees, angel trumpets, lettuce, and honeysuckles.
Since black fuzzy caterpillars look threatening, you might assume they are probably poisonous too. The good news is that they are not poison. When they’re in the larval stage, you don’t need to worry about them injecting poison into your system if you happen to touch them. In fact, you shouldn’t even feel any irritation from touching their thin spiky hairs. Since there are no toxins getting onto your skin, you won’t develop any symptoms of inflammation or swelling. There shouldn’t even be an injury either.
However, there have been a few reported cases of people coming down with dermatitis after touching a black fuzzy caterpillar. There is no scientific proof that the hairs of these caterpillars cause dermatitis. It is possible these claims are from people who have other underlying causes of their dermatitis which have not been accounted for.
If you pick up a black fuzzy caterpillar, you may notice your hand has some yellow liquid on it. This is associated with the caterpillar’s defense mechanism as it is supposed to deter predators away. The liquid will not harm you on the outside but avoid ingesting it or else you could get sick. Therefore, make sure you wash your hands immediately after you’ve handled a black fuzzy caterpillar. If you happen to have any open wounds or cuts, do not let the liquid touch these areas. If they do, disinfect the area with salt water immediately to clean out the wound.
When the black fuzzy caterpillar goes through its metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly, you will understand why it is called an Isabella Tiger Moth. The colors of the moth resemble the same colors as a tiger. It will have a mostly orange complexion on its body and wings, along with black dots all along its backside. You would never guess in a million years that this moth came from such a black spiky caterpillar. The moth itself does not have any spikes because they get shed during the metamorphosis.