I love the names we give creatures sometimes. Take this caterpillar I found today. It is commonly called The Laugher, the larva of of what is sometimes also called the Marbled Tuffet Moth Charadera deridens. The name is derived according to stories from the adult moth having what looks like eyes and a smiling face on its wings. Others say that the caterpillar shows some vaguely grinning faces that change as the caterpillar matures, the grin growing smaller each time as the head capsule gets blacker. Even it's scientific epithet deridens comes from the French for "to deride, mock, or laugh at."
The Laugher is a hairy caterpillar with long setae (hairs) that are clumped together and emerge from each wart on its body. It's head capsule is very dark black when mature, but much lighter the younger it is, with 3 triangular tooth looking marks before it pupates. It can vary a bit in color, but is generally pale colored.
This species usually has two broods or generations around here. It is adapted to being able to eat tough old deciduous leaves of trees, especially beech and oak, which most caterpillars often can't feed on. That's why you can find them often in the Fall when many other caterpillars have wrapped up their life cycles. This Noctuid moth overwinters as a lightly wrapped cocoon.
I've actually wanted to find The Laugher for quite a while. Even though its quite common, the most common of the 5 species in its Genus Charadera, I had never found one. That is until today. No joking, I was quite happy to finally find The Laugher, as was evident by the smile on my own face when I found it.