You can just look at all these bells and whistles and tell this guy packs a punch--a purpley-black body covered in yellow dots, spiky white and yellow barbs, a maroonish, dark red head...and to top that off, red and black multi-branched spines (that look like really sharp thorns)!
...one of the kids lifted this prickly guy on a stick to take him to the edge of the lawn at the nature center. We didn't want him to get squished...and we didn't want him to unintentionally leave any of those barbs in someone's skin!
...check out those dark spikes...makes me think of tiny locust tree thorns. (I only had my big lens with me. I wish I had had my macro so I could have gotten a close-up of those barbs. You can find a nice close-up here, though.)
When I saw this caterpillar in June, he was probably looking for a place to burrow into the ground to transform into a pupae. The pupal stage lasts through summer and according to the Ohio State University Entomology fact sheet (found here), Buck Moth adults emerge about now and will fly through Indian summer in October. Their name, "Buck" Moth, derives from the fact their flying season is the same time as the rutting season of the whitetail deer.
Buck Moth Caterpillars are very famous in New Orleans...
Buck Moth Caterpillars are relatively rare in our town, but apparently they are well know in the Big Easy, where the mass dropping of Buck Moth Caterpillars from Live Oak trees onto unsuspecting victims below is an annual right of passage! The story is here and here and here!
Duct tape to the rescue!
I read this quick fix on lots of sites: to remove the broken spines from your skin, apply and repeatedly strip duct tape (or Scotch tape) over the affected area. Once the venom is in, though, there's not much you can do. Ice helps and many sites recommend a paste of baking soda and water (here).