An encounter with a Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar

I nearly tripped over this attractive little fellow while out on my lunchtime walk in a London park a few days ago. It’s the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda) and was about 4cm long. It was charging determinedly across the grass to the safety of a nearby tree.

At this time of the year they pupate to spend the winter as a chrysalis and then reappear in the spring in all their hairy goodness. The adults are large (up to 6cm wingspan) are furry, grey, and have distinctively forward-stretched front legs.

They are pretty common in the UK, though this is the first of their caterpillars I’ve found.