Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tussock Moths

White Marked Tussock Moth
We have been hunting the last few days, using the guiding services of friends.  Hunting this time of year requires the stealth and cunning developed over thousands of years of evolution.  This is not about turkey hunting.  We are talking lepidoptera caterpillars, a.k.a. "cats."  Our goal was to find cats and avoid ticks but we managed to collect both.

I travel light with a point and shoot camera equipped with a good macro.  Our guide, Chris, carries a SLR with high power macro lens and specialized flash.  The army uses smaller weapons to destroy tanks.  He gets much better pictures but this is my blog, so this is what you get.

Adult moth
The White Marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leukostigma)above is one of the most common tussock moth species.   Their bright color may serve to advertise their presence but their urticating hairs (called setae) can cause irritation for an unwary predator and may produce an allergic reaction in humans.

They are a striking caterpillar which grows into rather undistinguished moths with feathery antennae.  Like many other moths, the Orgyia species do not eat as adults.  Further, the female has only rudimentary stubs of wings and is flightless.  She remains near the cocoon and lays up to 300 eggs.

Unknown Tussock Moth-Click to enlarge
I haven't been able to identify the other moth pictured to the right.  I would welcome your detective work while I get ready to return to the hunt tomorrow.  (5-1-2012.  Kevin Firth has identified my mystery tussock moth on the right as a Yellow-Banded Tussock, Dasychira basiflava,)*

Hunting caterpillars has advantages over turkey hunting.
  • They aren't heavy to carry back home.  
  • They don't require cleaning or cooking.  
  • We didn't have to go out at the crack of dawn.
And no caterpillars were hurt in producing this blog.

* Try your hand at Caterpillar ID at

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob:

    Looks like a Yellow-Banded Tussock, Dasychira basiflava (Wagner, p. 444). Oak is listed as the host.

    All the best,

    Kevin Firth