Brown, Spotted Tiger Moth

2009 April 11

Here’s a large, furry moth that obligingly posed on the screen of our back door in mid-June of 2007.


It has the build of some of the moths in the subfamily Arctiinae, the Tiger Moths.


I think it looks most like the moths in the genus Lophocampa, although I’m kind of torn as to whether it looks more like the Hickory Tussock Moth, Lophocampa caryae, or the Spotted Tussock Moth, Lophocampa maculata.


Either way, they have furry caterpillars that eat the leaves of deciduous trees, mostly things like ash, oak, hickory, maple, willow, and such like. They aren’t prone to eruptions in population, so the numbers are moderate and they don’t do much damage to the trees. The fur on the caterpillars is reported to be irritating to the skin, so it is probably best not to handle them too roughly.

Some of the tiger moths (particularly the ones with “wooly bear” typ caterpillars) overwinter as caterpillars that pupate in the spring, but I’m not sure about this one – it may very well have overwintered as a pupa. I expect that the fur on the throax on the adult is actually intended for exactly the purpose you might expect: it helps to keep the thorax warm. Butterflies and moths can’t fly until their flight muscles are quite warm, so cold-adapted species like this one have to “shiver” the muscles to warm them up before flying in cold weather (and it is generally pretty cold here at night, even in June). The fur insulation would certainly make it easier to warm up the muscles and get going.

4 Responses
  1. April 11, 2009

    Gorgeous! I got interested in this Sub-Family of moths after finding my first “wooly bear.” I leave the outside light on each night, but no moths, yet. Still too cold!

    Great photos and love the accompanying information.

  2. April 11, 2009

    My money is on L. maculata, based on the merged pales spots forming a blotchy band near the apex of the forewing. In L. caryae the band appears as discrete pale spots.

  3. April 11, 2009

    OK, I can go along with L. Maculata. Thanks for the ID pointer!

  4. April 18, 2009


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