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This year tiger moths are the featured insects for National Moth Week in 2017.

Tiger and Tussock moths - Family Erebidae

The tiger moths and tussock are a diverse group and they names are in flux. In the past, the tiger moths belonged to a separate family, the Arctiidae. Now they are grouped with the Tussock moths in the family Erebidae.

The most consistent characteristic of this family is that they hold their hairy front legs outstretched when they are at rest.

Many of the subfamilies have striped or spotted wings.

The caterpillars are hairy or fuzzy.

The banded woolly bear is a tiger moth caterpillar.

hickory-tussock-moth-1This is a hickory tussock moth. See its outstretched front legs?

hickoy-tussock-moth-caterpillarTussock moth caterpillars are also hairy.

Activity suggestions:

  1. Add your tiger moth photographs to the Project Noah moth mission page and check out what others have found.
  2. Learn about the Cinnabar Moth (a type of tiger moth) at the National Moth Week blog.
  3. Download the moth coloring book (link on the Kids Page) and color the tiger moth on page 3.

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It is so fun to travel to new places and meet new insects. Take, for example, the banded woolly bear, Pyrrharctia isabella.

We don't have this species of caterpillar in the low deserts of Arizona (although we do have another type people call woolly-worms). Banded woolly bears like this one are found further north, where the winters are cold and snowy.

Banded woolly bear caterpillars eat a variety of plants, including grasses, certain trees, and wildflowers such as asters and sunflowers.

In the fall when they are finished eating, banded woolly bears crawl here and there in search of a protected place to overwinter. That's when most people see them.

If you try to pick one up, it will curl up into a ball and remain still. After a short time, it will uncurl and crawl away.

Do you know what the caterpillar turns into? In the spring, after spinning a cocoon and pupating, the banded woolly bear becomes a yellowish Isabella moth.  (See more photographs of the Isabella moth).

Scientists have been studying how the caterpillars and their relatives manage to survive under freezing conditions. In one extreme case, another woolly bear from the Arctic lives for many years by feeding briefly in the summers and then freezing up - for as many as fourteen or more years in a row - before becoming an adult.

Discovery Channel has shared an amazing video from Frozen Planet. Note:  The video shows a close-up shot of caterpillars freezing and thawing with dramatic music, which may be disturbing to certain sensitive children. Also, a second video comes up that takes about the filming.

Young readers might enjoy Oh No, Woolly Bear!, a Lift the Flap Book by Patricia McFadden and illustrated by Michéle Coxon.


Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.