We found these cute little caterpillars recently and have been fortunate enough to see their progression into moth hood. They are Western Tussock Moth caterpillars. There are over 2,500 known species of Tussock moth found on earth.
You should handle these little caterpillars with caution as BugGuide notes: “Contact with hairs may cause an allergic reaction.”
Adult moths of this family do not feed. However, Tussock Moth caterpillars are defoliators and "are voracious eaters capable of defoliating entire forests."* Wow, really? Maybe in mass numbers but we found three.
|beginning of metamorphosis ~ pupae just forming|
The first stage of their metamorphosis is to become a fuzzy clump. Then within 10 to 18 days (depending on the surrounding temperature) they begin to emerge as a moth.
|pupae of moth|
|tiny moth shortly after metamorphosis is complete|