I have ben pestered by these hair caterpillars for a near on seven years. I am rather annoyed as every summer I have to find myself avoiding these pesky critters. Would anyone be able to give me an identification of the caterpillar, as I am frightened that they are harmful and will harm my family or me if we accidentally come into contact with them?
I’d also like to know what insect has been demolishing my garden for the last 7 years. I can give a brief description of them (I have also attached a photo):
They are rather small to begin with about 2-3 cm but can grow quiet large. Body colour is mainly black, with orange and white spot like markings. The caterpillars in question do have spine like hairs that appear to be sparse across their body.
This is an early-ish instar (stage of larval moult) of the Vapourer moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua. If you have a lot of roses or Pyracantha hedges around the garden they can build up in numbers over the years - as they have in my children’s school playground. The hairs are moderately irritant and if they are present on numbers then each larval moult releases hairs that can become airborne. They are not a health hazard per se but something to be aware off if you are sensitive to 'hairy caterpillars'.
Thank you very much for your help. You're right they do seem to be the Orgyia antiqua. I will continue to warn my family to keep their distance, and we do have a lot of beautiful roses in our Garden. In our seven years here we haven't shown any sensatvitiy (but then again we also haven't gone anywhere near them so I will be sure to keep any eye out).