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Last summer, I discovered a sycamore tussock moth caterpillar beset by parasites that would ultimately spell its demise (see original post here).

Since that time I’ve wondered how this creature might have looked had it lived to adulthood.

Then, recently, a promising possibility came crawling up a shrub in the sycamore shade.

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The ID team at BAMONA says it could actually be one of two moths.

Sycamore tussock and banded tussock moths look so much alike that they can’t be distinguished through pictures.

Though reports of the banded tussock may be more common, our trees and annual caterpillar sightings strongly suggest the sycamore tussock.

In either case, my question about the caterpillar’s adult appearance seems settled.

Besides, according to Bug Guide, confirming the identity of one or the other requires genital dissection.

Not to worry little one.  I can live with the mystery.
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Sycamore tussock moth larvae are known to drop in on anyone who’s spent a bit of time beneath a sycamore tree in July.

These hungry caterpillars then venture to skeletonize several of the tree’s leaves before becoming sycamore tussock moths (Halysidota harrissi).

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That is, if they’re not devoured along the way.

Chances are, with her long, piercing ovipositor, a female braconid wasp could insert her eggs directly into a caterpillar.

The hatched wasp larvae will then feed on the caterpillar’s insides, break through its skin, and spin cocoons on the poor worm’s back.

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This one survived barely longer than the wasp pupation.

Below, you can just about see the neatly cut and lifted lids where the wasps emerged, leaving their spent cocoons and desiccated host behind.

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[Though they escaped observation, I inferred this general identification of braconid wasps based on a discussion at BugGuide.net.  You can read the discussion here.]

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