Monday, July 30, 2012

Banded Tussock Moth

Banded Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris, a member of the Arctiidae family, or the Tiger, Lichen, and Wasp moths.
A few interesting facts about the Banded Tussock Moth (from "Tiger Moths and Wooly Bears" edited by William E. Conner).

  • Caterpillars often rests and feed in conspicuous places, so they are probably distasteful to birds.
  • Caterpillars eat their molted skins, including the hair (setea), possibly to retain toxic compounds they have obtained from feeding.
  • Caterpillars incorporate their hairs into their coccoons, presumably for further protection.
  • Adults feed on certain plants containing PAs (pyrrolizidine alkaloids, toxic stuff) that are used in the production of pheremones used during mating (mostly female moths).
  • They do this by regurgitating on the plants and then drinking the fluid which contains PAs dissolved from the plant tissue.
  • Word of the day: pharmacophagy (meaning literally drug eating).  Many members of the Artiidae practice pharmacophagy and use the ingested chemicals for defensive or mating purposes.