Bug of the Month October 2012: Buck Moth

Subject: is this some kind of tiger moth?
Location: Francestown, NH
September 27, 2012 5:02 pm
Hi, discovered this moth September 8th while pruning some shrubs/trees in a woodland garden. Seems like this character had just ”hatched” and was drying its wings. Amazing that when I put the branch down on the moss, it instinctively worked it’s way to the end of the branch so it could hang in the breeze to dry, it was gone a few minutes later. I searched hundreds of photos with no luck, although shape and some features were close.
Signature: alf

Buck Moth

Hi alf,
Your photo arrived at a very timely moment.  It is the end of the month, and it is time for us to select a new Bug of the Month for October, and your Buck Moth,
 Hemileuca maia, gets that honor.  Your sighting is also right on time for the Buck Moth’s seasonal appearance.  According to BugGuide they fly “October-November, only to September in north, to December in Florida.”  That coincides with buck hunting season in many parts of the country, hence the common name.  We imagine that Buck Moth are seen flying in the woods when hunters are out trying to bag that trophy.  We frequently post photos of Buck Moth Caterpillars in the summer, but folks should be warned that they have stinging spines.  The Buck Moth Caterpillars feed on the leaves of oak trees.  The Buck Moth genus contains other species, including some that are found in the west, like the Elegant Sheep Moth, but your species has only been reported as far west as Texas, and from Canada in the north to Florida in the south.  Like other members of the Giant Silkmothfamily Saturniidae, Buck Moths have a very short lifespan and they do not feed as adults.  Your photos are positively gorgeous, and they are a marvelous addition to our archive.  As an aside, we have noticed a significant uptick in the number of postings we are making from New Hampshire.  It makes us wonder if there is some reason folks in the Granite State are sending in so many identification requests.

Buck Moth

Hi Daniel, thanks for the emails!  Guess I was looking at the wrong spot in the database.   Wow, bug of the month, if nothing else that will make me post more interesting sightings J
I don’t know if any specific reason for the uptick, but I’m sure more people with digital cameras, and the push for more protected land in the rural areas.  We are lucky in that we are surrounded by 600 acres or so of protected land.
Thanks again

Thanks alf,
The uptick is specifically submissions from New Hampshire which have been arriving in a disproportionate number.  How lucky to have 600 nearby acres of open space.  In our Los Angeles neighborhood, we just got an additional 2 acres of black walnut woodland added to our existing 34 acre park, and that is huge in a city where land with a view commands a premium price.


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