A friend found this caterpillar while hiking in the woods on Wachusett Mountain, in Central Massachusetts, United States, in the first week of September. It was on a fallen log under the leaves of a deciduous tree, but she didn't know the exact name of the tree. She only saw one. It appeared to be just over an inch long. It was close enough to touch, but she didn't want to in case it would sting or cause skin problems.
I've never seen anything like it!
The most unusual feature is a row of four white fur-looking tufts growing out of its back not too far from the head. I used "tufts" for lack of a better word since I don't know the real term. They look like toothbrushes to me!
The body has black and yellow stripes. It has some small yellow circular areas on the black stripes.
The head is bright red with tiny black eyes. There are also a few bright red spots on the back toward the tail. The two antennae are black, and the tail is brown.
Pretty much the entire caterpillar is covered with white furry-looking spikes, including some in the front of the head that look like whiskers. There are black spikes dispersed along the body. These are longer and there are fewer of them than the white ones. There are no spikes coming out of the tufts.
What is this fascinating caterpillar? What will it grow into and when? Is it poisonous or in some way irritation to skin?