Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar

2014 November 8

Sandy found this caterpillar crawling on a milkweed leaf on September 16, 2013. I think we’ve found this species before, but last time it had lost all of the long tufts of hair.

The long tufts of hair evidently fall out pretty easily. Even this one seems to have lost one or more tufts, giving it a lopsided look:

I expect the long hairs are irritating, and possibly tend to embed in flesh kind of the way that porcupine quills do. And then the shorter, brown hairs just make it unpleasant to eat.

So, this is pretty clearly the Banded Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris. These are in the Tiger Moth tribe, along with other common fuzzy caterpillars like woolly bears. They mainly eat the leaves of deciduous trees, so I don’t know what this one was doing on a milkweed plant. I’m not sure how they overwinter, whether it is as caterpillars (like a lot of the tiger moths do), or as pupae. The adults fly mostly around mid-summer, so there is a good chance I’ll be getting them at a porch light one of these days.

2 Responses
  1. November 10, 2014

    I think the tufts are a fashion statement, like this:

  2. Jean Saja permalink
    October 24, 2021

    Found one on ginger lily late October, Mississippi

Comments are closed.