The banded tussock moth is actually a tiger moth, Halysidota tesselleris.
Its common name derives from the "tussocks" of bristles growing at either end of the larvae which strongly resemble the features of the true tussock moth caterpillars.
Foraging among the not yet fallen leaves of the oak out front, this cool weather cat seemed in no hurry to stop feeding and take cover just yet.
Like its cousin the woolly worm, this banded tussock moth caterpillar seems adept at negotiating the dramatic temperature fluctuations of late fall in the southeastern U.S.
While the bristles of many of the true tussock moth larvae can cause skin irritation if handled, my field guide indicated this was NOT true of the pale or banded tussock moth caterpillar.
Raised to be a skeptic, I devise a simple firsthand test of this assertion.
Seems that the field guide may have gotten this one right. Here's hoping it manages to cozy up in its cocoon before the real cold arrives. If so, perhaps we'll meet again as it takes to the wing in the warmth of next spring.