Moths Like Puss Moth: Essential Facts and Intriguing Details

folder_openInsecta, Lepidoptera
comment11 Comments

Moths are fascinating insects, with diverse species like the puss moth capturing our attention. The puss moth, also known as the southern flannel moth, stands out with its unique, fur-like appearance, resembling a small cat. This intriguing creature undergoes several stages of development, from caterpillar to adult moth.

There are many other beautiful and fascinating moth species, such as the Luna moth, known for its large size and green color, as well as the Polyphemus moth, characterized by striking eyespots on its wings. These creatures not only play essential roles in ecosystems but also pollinate flowers during their nocturnal activities. Their captivating beauty and ecological value make them a fascinating subject to explore.

Puss Moth Overview

Appearance and Characteristics

The Puss Moth, also known as the Southern Flannel Moth, is a species of moth with a wingspan ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches. Adults are small and covered in thick, yellow to orange fur-like hair. Some defining characteristics of Puss Moths include:

  • Yellow to orange fur-like hair
  • Small size (1-1.5 inch wingspan)
  • Potent stinging ability in caterpillar stage

Distribution and Habitat

Puss Moths can be found in various regions, including:

  • Europe
  • UK
  • North Africa
  • Asia
  • North America, specifically the southern United States
  • Channel Islands

They inhabit woodland, gardens, and urban areas where their host plants are available.

Conservation Status

As of now, the conservation status of Puss Moths has not been assessed or listed by major conservation agencies. However, these moths do not seem to be facing any significant threats to their population.

Life Cycle of Puss Moths

Eggs and Caterpillars

Puss moth caterpillars, also known as Megalopyge opercularis, are born from eggs laid by adult female moths. They’re called puss caterpillars because their thick, fluffy setae resemble the fur of a pussycat. Some noteworthy characteristics of the eggs and caterpillars phase include:

  • Eggs are laid in batches
  • Caterpillars have a furry appearance
  • They’re responsible for potent stings

Pupa and Adult Moths

As caterpillars grow and mature, they form cocoon pupae. These cocoons are hard and made of silk, serving as protection during their transformation into adult moths. They may overwinter as pupae in colder climates. Key features of the pupa and adult moth phase:

  • Cocoon built using silk
  • May overwinter before emerging as adult moths
  • Adult moths have a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches

Adults are called flannel moths because of their fluffy, wavy, flannel-like scales. Female moths are larger than males, with a wingspan of up to 1.5 inches. The front wings are yellow, while hind wings are creamy yellow. Adult moths have fur-like hair covering their bodies, which ranges in color from yellow to orange.

In summary, the life cycle of puss moths comprises four distinct phases: eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adult moths. Adults lay eggs, which hatch into caterpillars. These caterpillars develop in silk cocoons, transforming into pupae before finally emerging as adult moths.

Behavior and Diet

Feeding Patterns

Moths, including the puss caterpillar, have diverse feeding behaviors. For example:

  • Caterpillars primarily feed on leaves
  • Some adult moths consume nectar from flowers

A few notable feeding patterns:

  • Puss caterpillar (larval stage): Feeds on leaves of trees like oaks and elms
  • Indian Meal Moth (adult stage): Infests stored food products; not a significant feeder

Interactions with Ants

Some moth caterpillars form relationships with ants. Key points:

  • Caterpillars produce sugar-rich nectar
  • Ants consume nectar, protect caterpillars from predators
  • Formic acid in ants may deter potential predators

Example: Zygaena filipendulae (six-spot burnet moth) caterpillar

Flight and Attraction to Light

Moths are known for their attraction to light sources. Possible reasons:

  • Positive phototaxis: Movement towards light
  • Navigational confusion: Disruption of celestial navigation
Moth Behavior Daytime Nighttime
Flight Some moths, like the hummingbird hawk-moth, are active during the day Most moths, including the spongy moth, are active at night and attracted to light
Pollination Daytime moths typically visit brightly colored flowers Nighttime moths often visit pale or white flowers with strong fragrances

Defensive Strategies

Physical Features

Puss moths display various physical features that contribute to their defense mechanisms. For instance, their coloration ranges from brown, green, to yellow, which helps them blend into their environment and avoid predators1. Additional features include:

  • Wingspan: Puss moths have a wingspan of 45 – 70 mm, providing mobility and an escape route from threats2.
  • Upper surface: Their upper surface is covered with dark brown markings, enhancing their camouflage3.
  • Strong jaws: Puss moths possess strong jaws that can deliver a painful bite to potential predators4.

Chemical Defenses

Aside from physical adaptations, puss moths also utilize chemical defenses to deter predators. Some characteristics of these chemical defenses include:

  • Black spots: These moths have black spots on their wings, which emit a foul-smelling secretion when disturbed5.
  • Flagellae: Puss moth caterpillars possess long, hair-like structures called flagellae, which release a chemical irritant6.
  • Red flagellae: In some species, the red flagellae are particularly effective at repelling predators due to their bright color and potent chemical defense7.
Feature Puss Moth Comparison Creature
Coloration Brown, green, yellow Different
Wingspan 45 – 70 mm Different
Dark brown markings Yes No/Varies
Strong jaws Yes No/Varies
Black spots & secretion Yes No/Varies
Flagellae (chemical) Yes No/Varies
Red flagellae Some species No (if applicable)

Puss Moth Host Plants and Habitats

Preferred Plants

The puss moth caterpillar, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, feeds on various plants. Some preferred host plants include:

  • Willows
  • Poplars
  • Aspen

These caterpillars are also known to consume other vegetation, especially when their preferred host plants are not readily available.

Types of Habitats

Puss moth caterpillars can be found in a range of habitats, such as:

  • Open woodland
  • Moorland
  • Gardens

Table 1: Comparison of Puss Moth Habitats

Habitat Presence of Host Plants Abundance of Puss Moths
Open Woodland High (willows, poplars) High
Moorland Moderate Moderate
Gardens Low Low

These diverse habitats allow the puss moth caterpillar to thrive, usually wherever their host plants are present. However, they are more commonly observed in open woodland areas where willows and poplars are abundant.

Similar Species and Related Families

Leopard Moth

The Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina) is a type of wood-boring moth known for its striking markings. Characteristics include:

  • White wings with black spots
  • Antennae with black and white bands
  • Forewings are longer than hindwings

This moth is found in Europe and Asia, and its larvae feed on wood from various trees, including apple, pear, and walnut.

Southern Flannel Moth

The Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis), also known as the Puss Caterpillar, is related to the Puss Moth but belongs to the Megalopygidae family. Notable features:

  • Dense, soft fur on the caterpillar, similar to a cat’s coat
  • Potent sting from the caterpillar’s spines hidden beneath the fur

The adult moths feed on nectar, while the larvae feed on various plants like spiraea, wild cherry, and oak.

Notodontidae Family

Puss Moths belong to the Notodontidae family, which consists of over 3,800 species worldwide. Some common traits:

  • Unique antennae, often feather-like or serrated
  • Notched hindwings

To compare Puss Moths, Leopard Moths, and Southern Flannel Moths more easily, here’s a table highlighting their differences.

Feature Puss Moth Leopard Moth Southern Flannel Moth
Family Notodontidae Cossidae Megalopygidae
Antennae Bipectinate Black and white bands Plain
Forewing Pattern Banded or mosaic-like White with black spots Fluffy, wavy
Hindwings Notched Smaller than forewings Similar to forewings
Larval Appearance Puss caterpillar Wood-boring Puss caterpillar
Larval Food Source Willow, poplar Wood from various trees Spiraea, wild cherry, oak

Overall, while Puss Moths, Leopard Moths, and Southern Flannel Moths may exhibit some similar traits, they clearly differ in appearance, behavior, and feeding habits. Understanding these distinctions can help in accurately identifying each species and appreciating their unique characteristics.

Human Interactions and Management

Pest Control

Puss moths are considered pests due to their larvae, the puss caterpillars, which can produce painful stings. To manage them in gardens, there are multiple control methods available:

  • Biological control: Introducing natural predators like spiders can help reduce the population of puss caterpillars.
  • Physical control: Removing final instar caterpillars from tree bark, as they usually move to the ground to form pupal cocoons.
Method Pros Cons
Biological Environmentally friendly Some predators can be pests too
Physical Targeted removal Labor-intensive

Bug Control Recommendation Tool

What type of pest are you dealing with?

How severe is the infestation?

Do you require child/pet/garden safe treatments (organic)?

Are you willing to monitor and maintain the treatment yourself?


Attracting and Rearing Puss Moths

For those interested in rearing or attracting puss moths, it is essential to understand their lifecycle and preferred habitat. Here are the key steps to follow:

  1. Identify host plants: Puss caterpillars typically feed on a variety of trees and shrubs. Providing a suitable environment with these host plants helps attract the moths.
  2. Provide a safe environment: Protect the habitat from predators, and avoid using harmful pesticides.

Examples of common host plants for puss caterpillars:

  • Oak
  • Elm
  • Citrus

In conclusion, managing puss moths in gardens involves employing suitable control methods such as predator introduction and manual removal of larvae. For those interested in rearing them, providing an appropriate habitat with host plants and a safe environment is vital.

Impact on Ecosystem

Moths play a significant role in ecosystems, especially as pollinators. Some moths, like the Puss Moth, are active during the night. Their nocturnal activity contributes to pollination of various plants, including those with pale or white flowers that release a strong fragrance.

Moths also serve as a food source for various predators. These include bats, birds, and spiders that rely on moths for sustenance.

Features

  • Nocturnal activity
  • Pollinators for nocturnal flowers
  • Provide food for predators

Characteristics

  • Attracted to pale or white flowers
  • Strong sense of smell for detecting fragrances
  • Crucial component of food chain

Since their life cycle consists of multiple stages, moths engage with various animals in the ecosystem throughout their life. For instance, during the pupate stage, numerous insects and small mammals prey upon moth pupae.

Human activities, such as the excessive use of artificial lights at night, can impact moth populations by disrupting their navigation and mating processes.

Comparison of Night and Day Pollination

Night Pollinators (e.g., Moths) Day Pollinators (e.g., Bees)
Active Time Night Day
Flower Color Preference Pale or white Brightly colored
Flower Fragrance Strong Mild
Feeding Style Hovering or landing Landing

In conclusion, moths like the Puss Moth are vital components of the ecosystem, contributing to pollination and the food chain as well as interacting with other species in various ways.

Puss Moth in Popular Culture

The Puss moth, also known as the Southern flannel moth, has made appearances in various forms of popular culture. This includes art, literature, and symbolism.

In art, the unique appearance of the Puss moth has attracted many artists. For instance, the fluffy setae of its caterpillar stage, resembling a pussycat’s fur, is often captured in illustrations and paintings.

Puss moths have also found their way into literature. They are occasionally mentioned in nature-focused writings or featured in stories as interesting inhabitants of forests.

As for symbolism, the Puss moth’s striking transformation from caterpillar to adult stage can be seen as a metaphor for personal growth and change. This can give the Puss moth symbolic meaning in various contexts.

Features of Puss moths in popular culture:

  • Art: Unique appearance of its caterpillar stage attracts artists
  • Literature: Appear in nature-focused writings and stories
  • Symbolism: Transformation represents personal growth and change

Please find below a comparison table summarizing the appearance of Puss moths in different aspects of popular culture:

Aspect Puss Moth Appearance
Art Fluffy setae of caterpillar stage, resembles pussycat’s fur
Literature Mentioned in nature-focused writings or stories featuring forest inhabitants
Symbolism Caterpillar to adult stage transformation as a metaphor for personal growth and change

Footnotes

  1. Puss Moth Camouflage.
  2. Puss Moth Wingspan.
  3. Puss Moth Dark Brown Markings.
  4. Strong Jaws in Puss Moths.
  5. Puss Moth Black Spots and Secretion.
  6. Puss Moth Caterpillar Flagellae.
  7. Red Flagellae in Puss Moth Caterpillars.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Asp

 

More Catapillars
Location: Houston, Texas
March 21, 2011 9:59 pm
These pictures were taken October 23 2010. The catapillar I’m most curious about is the tan one in all three pictures. Me and my sister thought it was super cute. The other catapillar in the third image is less cute and really familiar looking, I think because I’ve seen that type of catapillar a lot growing up. What kind of catapillar is that little tan one? If it’s easy to identify, what is that yellow striped one?
Signature: Thanks a lot, Kelly Bufkin

Asp

Hi Kelly,
Your tan caterpillar is a Puss Caterpillar or Asp, the larva of the Southern Flannel Moth,
Megalopyge opercularis.  Handle the Asp with care as it is a stinging caterpillar.  The yellow striped caterpillar appears to be one of the Prominent Caterpillars, possibly Datana contracta based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Asp

 

Dear Bugman:
This caterpillar was found in my yard in Coppell , Texas (North Texas ). It is soft and when it latches onto a twig or blade of grass it really grabs on. I’d like to know what kind of caterpillar it is and what it turns into. Thank you!
Valarie

Hi Valarie,
In some areas, the Puss Moth Caterpillar has the local common name Asp. These caterpillars have stinging hairs that cause skin irritation.

Letter 3 – Asp

 

looks like a furry fish Just discovered your site! It’s very helpful, but we’re stumped on this one that looks like a furry fish. We found it happily eating a Red Bud leaf.
Dee Smith , Horticulture Manager
LaGrange , GA

Hi Dee,
The Puss Moth Caterpillar also goes by the local name Asp. This name is common especially Texas. The caterpillar has stinging hairs which can cause an uncomfortable irritation.

Letter 4 – Asp

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Houston tx
November 21, 2014 11:19 pm
We found on patio and would like to know what it is. Is it dangerous,poisonous, etc.
Signature: Cc

Asp
Asp

Dear Cc,
Your image is quite blurry, but this appears to be an Asp, the stinging caterpillar of a Southern Flannel Moth.  The Asp is notorious in the south where its sting is reported to be quite painful.
  Additional information on the Asp is available on BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Asp

 

Subject:  What is this bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  Pavement, TX
Date: 11/01/2017
Time: 05:01 PM EDT
This bug has been found in front of my house and I’d like to know what it is.
It’s really fuzzy and has a white underside.
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks, Orange

Asp

Dear Orange,
This is a Flannel Moth Caterpillar, commonly called an Asp.  It is a stinging species and here is a nice BugGuide image.

Letter 6 – Southern Flannel Moth

 

Subject: Moth?
Location: Houston, Texas, suburbs
September 7, 2015 5:25 pm
Hello bugman,
This fuzzy thing was by our front door all day. We live in Houston Texas. The weather has been in the 90s with some humidity and we’ve had rain on and off. The picture I’m attaching was taken around 3pm but my husband said he saw it earlier.
We are thinking its a moth, but we are not bug enthusiasts. My dog likes to stalk house flies.
Thanks!
Signature: Dianna w

Puss Moth
Southern Flannel Moth

Dear Dianna,
This is a Southern Flannel Moth, also called a Puss Caterpillar Moth,
Megalopyge opercularis.  Many folks in the South are more familiar with the stinging caterpillar which is known as an Asp.

Thanks Daniel! I had everyone on Facebook stumped. Have a good day!

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Puss Moth

Related Posts

11 Comments. Leave new

  • there are a number of these shown on youtube.
    one in particular is quite beautiful:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OeNggIGSKH8

    Reply
  • got stung twice it is so painful. It is so creepy too!

    Reply
  • margie oconnell
    August 9, 2014 9:43 pm

    The stinging asp, or puss caterpillar, stings like nothing else I’ve ever been stung by. The sting from this creature can make you very sick. I was stung on the inner thigh by one and in addition to the pain at the site of the sting, the lymph nodes in my groin enlarged, my stomach began cramping and I had to go home from school. Avoid them like the plague.

    Reply
    • Many years ago we created a Big 5 tag for bugs with painful or dangerous stings or bites. We never included the Asp. Your comment is prompting us to remedy that, though the Big 5 now includes more than five bugs.

      Reply
  • To add to what has already been said.which all true.this Asp will create a nice perfume smell to lure u in, there kind of cute, then if they sense u.they will give off the scent.I unfortunately lend in to smell her on a leaf & pow it lit my nose on fire.I had trouble seeing,most of my face had a rash,&even blisters.I was miserable for about 2 days. In Summary this Asp should be the front runner of bug stings. Thx, Stay away from them.

    Reply
  • I was stung by an asp when I was a kid while growing up in Houston, Tx, never forgot it. My mother soaked my arm in ice water for a while, I still have the scar from that sting on my arm and that was nearly 50 years ago. I live in Tn now, people here have never heard of an asp, must be a bug that lives only in the deep south.

    Reply
  • Donna Fuller
    March 11, 2019 5:01 pm

    When I lived in LaJunta, Tx as a teenager, I grabbed hold of a branch of a tree in our yard when my parents were gone. Was startled by extreme pain on the inside of three of my fingers. Had chills and pain the rest of the day – and days afterwards. I had seen a little white fuzzy thing on the branch as I let go. Many decades later I still remember the overwhelming pain, and scars that were left on my fingers for years afterwards. My parents didn’t think much of it when they learned about it – just said it was an asp and told me it would eventually stop hurting. I do remember distinctly it affected my entire body, I’m learning now it must have been a southern flannel moth ‘offspring’! This was a small town in the vicinity of Fort Worth.

    Reply
  • julia mccall
    July 21, 2019 5:42 pm

    I was in my backyard taking out my trash.when ilooked like ants but there was a small something on my foot also.it was about the size of my little finger and brown in color can you tell me what this is

    Reply
  • I just got stung by one, and had no idea what it was. I actually laid down on it, and it was already dead. It stung my shoulder blade, and felt like a burn. Almost an hour later, and it is still throbbing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

keyboard_arrow_up