NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Giant Leopard Moth

new stuff 2012 007pointsMy previous Nature Knowledge post, from today, inspired me to look through my photos of caterpillars. I made another great find that I will probably keep next time that I encounter one. Above, is a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar. This prickly fellow is not poisonous like the Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar, although he looks formidable. In fact, Giant Leopard Moths feed on broad leaf plants, rather than, decimating trees. I had found this caterpillar at my camp doorstep in New York State. I’m sorry, now, that I did not identify it sooner. It must have been coming out from an eave where it had wintered.

English: A baby moth that hatched from cocoon,...
English: A baby moth that hatched from cocoon, raised the larval state black fuzzy caterpillar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a lovely moth to behold! (Personally, I prefer moths to butterflies but they are nocturnal and are harder to find.) The photo specimen above, was an actual successful rearing of a caterpillar to adult.

Here’s another borrowed photo:

Giant Leopard Moth
Giant Leopard Moth (Photo credit: cotinis)

Interesting Facts

  • It might look dangerous when it is a caterpillar but it is not poisonous and hence can be an easy pet for children.
  • They get attracted to electric lights during the night, but some experts conclude that more than the females, the males can be seen doing so with the beginning of summer.
  • Since they navigate effectively in moonlight, electric lights can baffle them, causing them to hover around them.
  • The caterpillars can roll itself like a ball to mislead its predators, in which it exposes its spines and the orange segments lying between.
  • These moths are often regarded helpful in controlling invasive plant species.
  • On being alarmed, glands located in the thorax region can produce a stinking liquid to ward off predators.

My caterpillar photo was from last Spring. Hey, I’ve got some searching to do this weekend! The kids may enjoy raising one, almost as much as, I. 😉

NATURE KNOWLEDGE: Hickory Tussock Moth

Aug 2011 033come to me

This fuzzy little guy is a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar. Most caterpillars are discovered in mid to late summer. Usually, by then, they have reached a noticeable size from eating all season and growing from larva into full caterpillars. Below, is one common variety of Hickory Tussock Moth.

Lophocampa caryae
Lophocampa caryae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many varieties of Tussock Moths. Their caterpillars vary in appearance too. All are about 2 inches long and fuzzy/spiky in appearance . They love eating Hickory trees but will settle for Elm, Ash, Oak and Willow trees too. They sometimes can cause the defoliation of these trees.

weird 001The one above, was brought to me by my daughter who had found it so curious looking. Thankfully, she did not handle it directly. I found this warning when making the identification:

“The Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar has poisonous hairs and spines that can cause skin rashes similar to poison ivy. If your child should rub his/her eyes or touches his/her nose after coming into contact with this caterpillar reactions can also include conjunctivitis (eyes), light sensitivity (eyes) and wheezing (nose).”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/30/news/state/entomologists-beware-of-hickory-tussock-caterpillar/

Under a microscope, those little hairs are barbed. Seems these little guys are “armed and dangerous” to most prey. Thankfully, most toads, small snakes and birds don’t mind a bit. We are very fortunate that Mother Nature holds everything in delicate balance!

PS.~ These caterpillars were photographed in New York State and Massachusetts. The link to the warning talks about Maine but they are here too!