Currently viewing the category: "Tussock Moths"

Subject: hairy Slater bug?
Location: Albany, western Australia
December 25, 2013 9:41 pm
I’ve got a bug about the size of a pinky finger nail on top of its eggs sitting beneath the hand rail of the verandah. It’s eggs are hairy as is the body of the animal. Very strange, its body shape looks like a cross between a Slater and a giant flea and the front half of a moth with its legs at the front near its nose.
Signature: here

Flightless Female Tussock Moth with Eggs

Flightless Female Tussock Moth with Eggs

We were struck by the resemblance between your photo and an image in our archive of a flightless female Western Tussock Moth with her egg mass, and we quickly learned that the genus Orgyia is represented in Australia as well.  Birds on the Brain pictures a flightless female Tussock Moth in the genus Orgyia, but she is not identified to the species level.  Butterfly House indicates that Orgyia australis is found in Australia, but does not even indicate that the female is flightless.  The Brisbane Insect website indicates the common name is the Painted Pine Moth and pictures a flightless female.  The Government of South Australia has an excellent pdf on the life cycle of Australian Tussock Moths.  Your photograph pictures a flightless female that has laid her eggs in and on the cocoon she emerged from.  Since she is flightless, she cannot move about in search of a mate, but since she releases a pheromone upon emergence, a winged male can locate her to mate.  The pdf states:  “On hatching, the female remains clinging to the outside of the cocoon where she mates and lays eggs. The eggs are laid in a mass amongst the hairs on the outside of the pupal cocoon. Each female may lay up to 700 eggs. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars which swarm over nearby twigs and needles.”

That’s fantastic and interesting! Thanks a lot, I’m so glad you got back to me! Hope you have a wonderful new year!

Subject: Satin Moth (Leucoma salicis)
Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
October 8, 2013 6:56 am
Hi, y’all!
I sent this in originally during your long break, and think it may have gotten lost the pile you received during that time. Anyway, I found this moth in Yellowstone National Park in late July or early August. A number of moths of the same species were hanging out, motionless, perhaps after a night of debauchery, on the stone facade of the Mammoth Hot Springs ranger station. Some Googling has led me to believe that it’s a Satin Moth (Leucoma salicis). Information is sparse on these. Evidently their young nibble on aspens and the like (of which there are plenty in the area). According to Bugguide ( they’re Europe-native and considered an invasive pest in the US. Anyway, I didn’t see any specimens in your archives, so I thought you might want to add it to your collection. 🙂
Signature: Helen

Satin Moth

Satin Moth

Hi Helen,
Thank you for taking the time to resend the underrepresented Satin Moth to us.  You are correct about the huge quantity of mail we couldn’t answer in August.  That was one of our busiest identification request times, but a family emergency necessitated leaving the office.

Subject: Moths of Sri Lanka
Location: Sri Lanka
November 2, 2012 7:29 am
I have over 60 species of Moth to ID from Sri Lanka. Found you guys and thought i would test you out! I have attached 3 fairly distinctive looking Moths to start with. Really hope you can help ID these. If not maybe suggest someone who can? So i can contact them.
Any help will be gratefully received, thanks.
Signature: Gary T

Unknown Moth

Hi Gary,
Though we rather quickly idenrified your Urania Moth and Red Striped Tiger Moth from Sri Lanka, this third species is eluding us, so we decided to just post it as unidentified.

Thank you very much for your help on these.
Is it possible there maybe somewhere, i can post all my pix, for someone to ID?
Gary Thoburn

Hi Gary,
We can try our best, but please only one species per submission.  Please use our standard form and please provide any relevant information on the sighting.  You can also try posting your photos to FlickR.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks again. I have uploaded them all to FlickR, maybe you can take a look??? Even if NOT, thank you for your help, hopefully this will help me ID them all?
Gary Thoburn

Update:  Karl provides an identification
November 7, 2012
Hi Daniel and Gary:
I believe your unidentified moth is a Tussock Moth (Lymantridae), probably in the genus Lymantria. The genus has quite a few representatives in Sri Lanka but I was unable to find any photos or descriptions to permit a definitive identification. The closest match I could find was Lymantria singapura. I found several photos that looked close enough to convince me that this is possibly the correct species, even though all online information suggests that this is a Southeast Asian species. I could find no record of it occurring in Sri Lanka but insects move around quite easily these days. A good example would be the related European Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) that was originally a Eurasian species that has become widely distributed in North America. Although I can’t provide a positive identification, I suggest it is probably L. singapura or possibly some other native Sri Lankan species in the same genus. Regards.  Karl

Thanks Karl,
It appears you nailed it.

White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma)
Location: Naperville, IL
August 16, 2011 9:09 pm
You just posted a white marked tussock moth caterpillar. I believe this is the moth version!
Best regards
Signature: Dori Eldridge

White Marked Tussock Moth

Hi Dori,
Thanks so much for sending us a photo of an adult male White Marked Tussock Moth, AKA Rusty Vapor Moth to accompany the image of the caterpillar we just posted.  Some of your previous submissions have become part of a new tag:  Bug Humanitarian Award.

Dear Daniel~
I am honored, thank you.  I believe you and your partners deserve heaps of accolades for your monumental efforts to educate and entertain.  I can not sing your praises highly enough.  All the best to you.

Location: Arcata,Ca USA: N 40.86652 and W -124.08284
February 10, 2011 12:15 am
I want to register on your sight but hitting the register button redirects me to the log in page again – I’ve tried it for a few days now. Am I missing something or are you having a problem? I love insects and the philosophy of your sight – I have a lot of photos and some stories – I can even donate something . Why am I denied WTB? Included here are some photos of the I found this cocoon on one branch and thought some cruel wasp had laid eggs on it. From what I can tell it is a cocoon of the Rusty Tussock Moth (Lymantriidae: Orgyia antiqua) Just guessing at the species but it seems a trademark for the genus. The female lays eggs on her own cocoon after emerging and mating. She is flightless apparently. She must just sit tight and use a pheromone to attract a male. I hope the host plum will manage to weather both its early blooming and the hungry caterpillars that start munching away when spring really does come
Signature: Rueka

Vapourer Eggs

Dear Reuka,
First, let us apologize on two counts.  First the delay in a response is due to our limited staff.  We are unable to even read all the requests we receive, and when we are very busy we tend to select emails based on the subject lines.  The subject line on your email did not immediately catch our eye.  Additionally, the editorial staff at What’s That Bug? is distinct from the technical staff.  We have an ace webmaster who does not answer any identification requests, and the editorial staff is quite inept at dealing with any website technicalities.  We will promptly forward your registration problem to the webmaster in the hope that he can guide you through the technical problems you are experiencing.  Now that we have finished begging for your forgiveness, we need to tell you we are positively thrilled to post your images of Tussock Moth Eggs from the genus
Orgyia.  We would not be able to positively provide a species identification, and we wonder how you arrived at the Rusty Tussock Moth, a European immigrant, as the correct species.  Other members of the genus Orgyia have a similar method of laying eggs.  We are linking to a FlickR posting of an adult female Rusty Tussock Moth shortly after laying her eggs, and BugGuide has photos of other members of the genus.  Though we do not think it is possible to provide a conclusive identification for your eggs, we would not eliminate the possibility that they belong to the Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta, which BugGuide does report from CaliforniaThe Rusty Tussock Moth has been reported from Oregon on BugGuide, which indicates the common name Vapourer  for the species, though that common name seems to be accurate for the entire genus. BugGuide also provides this information:  “Caterpillars are generalist feeders on the foliage of flowering trees in the Rosaceae, Fagaceae, Ericaceae, and Salicaceae.”  Plum is in the family Rosaceae, so your identification is entirely possible.

Vapourer Eggs

Update from Rueka
Absolutely no  problem on the delay, I hardly felt there was one. It is wonderful to get a response at all and I am most happy for yours. Such detail and such an interest, and curiosity, in the little moth eggs I found, so much more gratifying than, ” Oh that’s kinda gross. What if they hatch or something?”  What is “or something” I wonder? Are caterpillars ominous beings? Am I blind to some lurking danger? Ok, yes there is “Tussockosis” I suppose but I am not planning on eating them or rubbing them in my eyes. I just can’t see putting this very high on my list of things to fear in the world. Now if I were a tree perhaps I would be a little more afraid of them.  As I am not a tree however, I really hope they do hatch so I can photograph that too and maybe get a more precise narrowing to species. The common names for so many of these Orgyians are a complete mess so I am going to avoid them now. I must admit to having  guessed as far as Orgyia antigua goes, the result of a few quick searches (possibly similar to yours) in Wikipedia and Bug Guide and maybe some other places where I compared the assumed range, and feeding habits, and my photographs to theirs.  The photos I found of O. antigua (eggs) looked “dead on” compared to mine and my ignorance of this behavior filled in the blanks. The host plant families (as you noted) seemed to match for O. antigua and rosaceae. Perhaps my identification to species was a bit hasty based on so little. However, There are at least three others in the genus Orgyia common here in N.W. California. One of my books, California Insects (Powell & Hogue, 1976), states that O,vetusta is (or was) restricted to sea coast dune habitats  while a much more common (literally garden variety) O. gulosa (often mistaken for O.vetusta) has a wider range. I am not finding what O. gulosa eats and, at the moment of writing this, I have no internet to reference ( how did we all make it so far before the internet?). Powell and Hogue, unfortunately, do not mention the common host plants for O. vetusta either. My eggs were about 2km inland and in town.  Alternately, I can’t ignore O. pseudotsugata  who may, or may not, be  limited (as larvae) to cocooning on conifers ( Insects of the Pacific North West Haggard &Haggard 2006). This one might be the true “native” but seems the least likely to lay eggs on a plum tree.  Yet, the conifer forests are closer than the dunes by a hair and a leaf. I wonder if they (the caterpillars) travel by silk balloon? What fun that would be. The Insects of the Pacific Northwest  does not even mention O.vetusta or O. gulosa but notes  O.antigua as being “very common” in costal areas and provides an eerily familiar looking photo of a cluster of cocoon nested eggs. I am glad that we all seem to have an easy way to agree on the genus anyway.  So, all that said, my money is still on O. antigua as the most likely depositor of these lovely cyclopian orbs; especially, considering the hapless plum picked by mum for her progeny to feed upon. Although I am still,clearly, guessing and maybe a little reluctant to let go of my half baked initial ID.  I think that all we can do is wait to see if they make it through the winter and hope that something identifiable emerges that doesn’t disperse itself while I’m sleeping or out stumbling upon, and being distracted, by some other arthropodic curiosity.
Thanks so much for your interest, and for hosting such a wonderfully entertaining and informative website full of great “bugs”.
Entomologically yours,

Thanks for the update Rueka.  We have one additional thought regarding dispersion of the caterpillars.  A caterpillar that is hatched from an egg that was laid on the food plant would have no need to balloon away to another location that might not have any suitable food.  Spiders often balloon away from the site of hatching, but they are predators.  We can’t help but to be reminded of that old adage “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree” when it comes to these Tussock Moths.  The female is flightless and cannot fly to a new location, so her eggs will be laid upon the same plant that she fed upon before her metamorphosis.  One begins to wonder how a species with flightless females can ever manage to change its range or location with such limited mobility.

Daniel and co.
I apologize for the reference to ballooning. My tongue was a little in my cheek there on that. I was waxing romantic. Your question regarding the motility of the female is a good one and stumped me a bit too while I thought of all this until I connected it to the Tussock moth “epidemics” that sporadically occur in western coniferous forests.  This is well documented and occurs specifically with O. pseudotsugata and related sub-species. I need not look this up. I have seen it. I had just almost forgotten. The caterpillars literally drop from the trees and travel en-mass over the ground presumably in search of more trees. I think most caterpillars avoid this out of fear of predation but most of the Orgyia are apparently toxic so are left alone by savvy predators.  I would conjecture that they leave the tree they hatch from when the food supply becomes scarce as a result of their over whelming numbers. But as the female is flightless it could also be an innate strategy to drop and crawl along looking for better pastures before metamorphosing.  Of course in most cases when the populations are balanced and there is plenty of food the female would have no reason to leave the tree unless she just felt genetically driven to move on.  I would be surprised if my little eggs are O. pseudotsugata though just because they are in a plum, but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely either. I think the caterpillars will seek out any high place during their final instar and make a cocoon regardless of food sources. I’ve seen them wedged in cracks in walls of concrete after an “epidemic”. However that was long ago and in mountains east of here.  It was the eggs I had not seen before – or had not noticed. I’m so glad I found them. It has been  a nice distraction to figure it out and piece it together a little. I still get to look forward to actually identifying these guys after they hatch. Thanks for the insights. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.

Hickory Tussock Moth Hatched Mid January…
Location: Albany, NY
January 19, 2011 9:29 pm
Hello. When it got cold here, we pulled back our daughter’s curtains only to see a cocoon attached. We did not move it and it became a part of our nightly ritual ”Good Night Cocoon,” etc. (My daughter is 3). My husband & I thought it had not survived and out of nowhere, middle January, it hatched tonight. Presently it’s in a tupperware with holes & some indoor plant clippings. It’s in the 20s outside and so, I can’t release it. What should I do? I have read that it doesn’t eat as an adult, is that true? Thank you for your help.
Signature: Take care, Kim

Hickory Tussock Moth

Hi Kim,
Thanks so much for writing us your sweet email with this image of an adult Hickory Tussock Moth,
Lophocampa caryae.  The big problem with a cocoon or chrysalis in a heated home is that often the adult will emerge indoors in winter when it cannot find a mate.  This happens frequently with captive caterpillars, but in your case, this unfortunate Hickory Tussock Moth wandered into your comfortable, temperate home on its own.  You are correct that many adult moths, especially Giant Silkmoths and Tiger Moths (your Hickory Tussock Moth is in the Tiger Moth family Arctiidae) do not feed as adults.  You can see BugGuide for more information on the Hickory Tussock Moth.