leuco=white and stigma= mark or spot (Greek). Presumably refers to the white spots on the male forewings.
Adult: Adult females, which are pale grey, are wingless and therefore flightless.
Males are medium brown moths with a distinctive darker pattern and a single white spot on each forewing.
Larva: Caterpillars are recognized by the bright red head and broad black stripe along the back flanked by a yellow stripe each side. Two red glands on sixth and seventh abdominal segments, and four tufts of hairs (which may be white, gray or yellowish) on the first four abdominal segments are common to several members of the genus. CAUTION: Contact with hairs may cause an allergic reaction.
Very common and widespread in wooded areas of the Eastern US. Southern Canada to FL and TX.
Caterpillars feed on a wide range of hardwood trees and conifers. Wagner(2) lists "apple, birch, black locust, cherry, elm, hackberry, hickory, oak, rose, willow...fir, hemlock, larch, spruce and other conifers."
Flightless females lay a froth-covered mass of up to 300 eggs after mating. Images of all stages in the life cycle may be found on this (1)
CAUTION: Avoid handling the caterpillar, as its hair is known to cause allergic reactions, especially in areas of the body with sensitive skin (e.g. back, stomach, inner arms). Seek medical treatment if a severe reaction occurs.
Orgyia detrita caterpillar is similar in coloration but "the sides of the body are gray and supraspiracular warts are orange; the black middorsal stripe is flanked by yellow spots on A4-A7" - Wagner, p.450 (2).
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