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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.

Not far from where I found yesterday's pignut hickory tree, I found this hairy caterpillar.

hickory-tussock-caterpillar

Turns out it isn't a coincidence to find it there, because this is a hickory tussock moth caterpillar, Lophocampa caryae. The larvae feed on the leaves of hickories, as well as a number of other deciduous trees and some shrubs.

hickory-tussock-side view

You might wonder which end is which.

hickory-tussock--head-onThe head is black, but it is hard to tell unless you get close.

Although the hickory tussock caterpillar looks adorable, it is best not to get close enough to touch one. Contact with the hairs of one of these caterpillars can cause rashes and allergic reactions.

Note that white and black is a warning coloration, meaning stay away, just like yellow and black (wasps), or red and black (black widow spiders and snakes). Think about a black and white skunk, which is definitely well defended!

This caterpillar was on the ground, likely looking for a place to pupate. What does this caterpillar turn into after spinning a cocoon in the leaf litter and spending the winter there?

hickory-tussock-moth-1

In the spring it turns into a hickory tussock moth, of course. Talk about spring finery!