What caterpillar is this
Thank you for your question. The caterpillar in your photo is the smartweed caterpillar, scientific name Acronicta oblinita. It will eventually become a smeared dagger moth.
Handling this species is not recommended as their spines can break off and release toxins that can cause varying degrees of irritation. See the link to Auburn University below.
The caterpillars of this species are highly variable in color, but black is usually a predominant color and yellow is also usually present. They occur in open habitats from Canada to Florida and Texas.
They feed on a variety of woody plants, including smartweed, shrubs and both softwood and hardwood trees.
If you are interested in learning more about caterpillar species in your area, here is an excellent reference:
Wagner, David L. (2005). Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
This book covers both butterflies and moths.
Here's a link where you can find additional information on this species:
I hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.
Jim Burke, thank you so much for answering my question! I truly appreciate it. I am aware of the puss caterpillars...not to touch them.
But I'm just glad I didn't try to handle this smartweed caterpillar either!
It really is a good policy to not pick something up or touch it, unless you know exactly what it is!
You're welcome! Contact us any time.