We think its a Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar. We found him on the trunk of a Japanese maple right near the front door and he was about 2 inches long. He’s a beautiful creature with vibrant colors but be careful – that plush exterior may sting or cause an allergic reaction.
This little guy will turn into a moth that looks like the one below.
From Wikipedia we read: [Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillars] are covered all over in long, hairlike setae, in tufts. These vary in colour from yellowish and orange to dark gray. Extra long ‘hair pencils’ of white, black, and/or orange occur at both the front and rear of the caterpillar. The head capsule is bright orange. In the north, mature caterpillars are found from July to frost (Wagner 2005). Caterpillars frequently rest on the upper surface of leaves, and though not gregarious, are very conspicuous (Wagner 2005).
Evidently they are not good to eat in either form, but they are very striking in person. Now we’re going to start looking for the moth.