Banded Tussock Moth caterpillars do not harm most handlers unlike other moths with a 'tussock' name. This is because the Banded Tussock Moth is actually a Tiger moth, not a true, stinging Tussock. That said, those with sensitive skin may still experience discomfort handling it. The bushy, bristly body comes in many colors like white, gray, orange, yellow, or rusty brown. Two pairs of long, pencil-like lashes in black and white by the head extend forward, in front of the face. A second set of black and white lashes are just below them and grow upward with a forward leaning. A third set by the rear extend beyond the end of the caterpillar. The head is black and a dark line runs down the length of its 'spine'. Younger caterpillars can have white or yellow hues and have more separation between the bristly hairs, like pipe cleaners.
The caterpillar is highly noticeable even though it is often seen alone. Though eggs are laid on the bottoms of leaves, the caterpillar tends to crawl and rest on the topside. It is most active from mid-summer through most of autumn, feeding on a variety of deciduous tree leaves like oak, willow, tulip tree, and birch. It forms a hairy cocoon and remains inside through the winter. The cocoon looks like an egg-shaped wad of woolly hairs.
The adult is called a Pale Tiger Moth, or a Banded Tussock Moth. It is identical to the Sycamore Moth, another Tiger moth with a Tussock name. One to two generations can be produced each year.
The map above showcases (in blue) the states and territories of North America where the Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.*NOTE: States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.