Odd looking caterpillars - Touch at your own risk!

There are more Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars in Central New York this summer, and the black and white caterpillars look interesting, inviting people to pick them up. The problem is, they have a defense mechanism, and the could leave you with an itchy rash.Dr. Dylan Parry, a lepidopterist (butterfly expert) at SUNY-ESF, says the insects are fairly common, and there may be more of them than usual in the area this summer. He says the last large-population year was 2002. They eat hickory, walnut, oak and other nut tree leaves.We have received several viewer comments about them, some with dire warnings, but Dr. Parry says the caterpillars are usually harmless. Children and others with a sensitivity to the caterpillar's hairs could develop an itchy rash.

He notes that it's mostly children who are intrigued by the caterpillar's striking look. Have you seen any of these caterpillars in your neighborhood? Leave us a comment and let everyone know about them!