Sunday, June 19, 2011

Virginian Tigar Moth

Virginian Tiger Moth - Spilosoma virginica
I found this Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) under a leaf at Wolsfeld Woods SNA while on a walk with my family.

It's a member of the Arctiidae family of moths, or the Tiger, Lichen, and Wasp moths.  Many of the moths in this family are brightly colored and boldly patterned, probably to warn hungry bats of their unpalatability.  Many of them gather toxic compounds from plants while feeding as larva, which they are well known for.   I was recently paging through a book about Arctiidae moths; it looked more like a chemistry book with all its diagrams and tables of chemical compounds.  Many Arctiidae moths are able to emit ultrasonic sounds that confuse the echolocation sense of bats.
The caterpillars of Arctiidae moths are anywhere from soft and fuzzy to covered in stiff bristles, another protection from predators.  The most famous caterpillar of this family is the Wooly Bear (larva of the not so famous, and rather drab for a Arctiidae, Isabella Moth).  The caterpillar of the Virginian Tiger Moth is known as a Yellow Bear, even though it is very variable in color.  It's best recognized by the extra long hairs growing from each tuft of shorter hairs, usually one per tuft.  Look for one this summer or fall