Discover the Tiger Eye Moth: Key Facts and Information

The tiger eye moth protects itself with a very unique strategy: it has eye spots on its body that look like tiger eyes! Let’s learn all about them in the article below.

Ever heard of a moth with the eyes of a tiger? While it is not possible in literal terms, there exists a moth that has tiger eye patterns on its wings. 

This beautiful insect is part of the family of tiger moths, so called because of the black stripes on their bodies akin to tigers.

But the tiger eye moth takes it one step further – it even has large eye spots that look exactly like tiger eyes!

In this article, we will talk all about them, their size, lifecycle, habitat, and more. 

Scientific Classification Table 

FamilyBrahmaeidae
IdentificationIntricate pattern on the wings that resemble the eyes of a tiger.
Size1.9-6 inches
Wingspan Sizeover 7 inches
RangeEastern Himalayas, Western China, the Philippines, and Burma
LifespanAdults live for a few days
Life CycleEggs, larvae, pupae, adults
DietAdults don’t eat. Caterpillars eat leaves and flowers of trees like lilac.
Conservation StatusUK BAP: Priority species (research only)
Other Common NamesBrahmaea Hearseyi, Brahmin moths, Owl moths

What Does The Tiger Eye Moth Look Like?

Tiger eye moths (Brahmaea Hearseyi) belong to the Brahmaeidae family. Unlike the large Erebidae family, the Brahmaeidae only has around 40 known species

The tiger eye moths are known for their intricate wing patterns. These graphic patterns resemble the image of a tiger’s eyes. 

Like many other insects, the adult moths of this species fall in the non-feeding category, which implies that they don’t survive for long as adults.

Their only reason to live is to procreate and make the next generation ready for the world.

Interestingly, if you look at these moths from the opposite angle, the wing patterns also look like the eyes of an owl! This is why they are also called owl moths. 

This pattern and color help them to blend well with brown backgrounds like wood, thus assisting them in camouflaging themselves from predators in forests. 

Tiger Eye Moth
Owl moth eye spots vs an owl’s eyes – see the similarity

Tiger Eye Moth Size-How Big Does Tiger Eye Moth Get?

Tiger eye moths are fairly big for their kind. An average adult can have a wingspan of over 7 inches. Their body is smaller than their wings. 

It can measure anywhere between 1.9-6 inches. 

The caterpillars are nothing like the woolly bear caterpillars of other tiger moths species. They don’t have a fuzzy black coat of hair surrounding the body. 

They have greenish-yellow bodies with beautiful patterns. Sometimes the bodies are black with white patterns. 

The head and feet are black. Also, tiger eye moth caterpillars have several long tube-like antennae on their head and the bottom.

Tiger Eye Moth Lifespan-How Long Does Tiger Eye Moth Live?

Tiger eye moths adults don’t live for long, at best they can survive for 6-10 days. They don’t eat anything as adults. In rare cases, they might consume some water. 

In the wild, there are high chances of them being hunted down by predators like birds, bats, spiders, and lizards.

If kept in captivity(under ideal conditions), these moths can survive a little bit longer than this, but not more than a month. 

Tiger Eye Moth Life Cycle 

Mating

Once a new batch of adults emerges from pupae; they start searching for mates. During the mating process, the eggs get fertilized in the female body. 

After mating, these females move to the host plant to lay the fertilized eggs. They usually choose spots that are well hidden from predators. 

Hatching

It takes around ten days for the embryo to absorb the nutrients in the eggs to finally hatch as a caterpillar. 

It takes a little extra effort for tiger eye moth caterpillars to come out of the eggs due to the presence of the long tubes near the head. 

In some cases, they might have to chew the shell to break past it.

Cream Striped Owl Moth

As soon as the caterpillar comes out, it starts eating the eggshell of the egg from which it hatched. 

These eggshells are an excellent source of vitamins and necessary protein for the growth of the caterpillars.

The caterpillar must bulk up and store enough fats to be able to transition into the pupal stage. This is why they consume loads of leaves from the nearby host plant. 

Pupation

Once they have stored enough fats, they search for a safe spot to start pupating. The pupa usually hangs below a branch, covered by a leaf. 

This keeps it out of a predator’s sight. Initially, the pupa has a metallic green color, but with time it turns brown, and towards the end, it is either black or dark gray. 

The emerging time for adults differs according to their size and strength.

The bigger and stronger adults can break past the pupal cover much faster than the smaller and more delicate ones. 

When these insects emerge from the egg, they are completely wet. Hence, they take some time for the wings to dry up before flying away to find mates. 

It takes around 5-21 days for a caterpillar in a pupa to emerge as an adult moth.  

Watch the day-by-day progress of the tiger-eyed moth as it hatches from the egg right upto the time it becomes an adult moth here:

Where Is Tiger Eye Moth Found & Their Range? 

Tiger eye moths are native to the Eastern Himalayas, Western China, the Philippines, and Burma. 

However, most members of the Brahmaeidae family are facing habitat loss due to human intervention. 

The good news is that these insects can be bred and are often kept in zoos where they are protected under ideal conditions.

The female prefers to lay eggs in locations with a good variety of host plants for the larvae to feed on, which includes plants like Fraxinus, Ligustrum, and Syringa. 

Adults prefer to live in forests where they can hide well from predators. Other species of this family can be found in various regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa. 

What Do Tiger Eye Moths Eat? 

As stated in the sections above, tiger eye moths don’t survive for long; they spend their entire adult life mating and laying eggs. 

This is why they don’t eat anything as in their adult life. These insects rely on the fat storage in the body built during the larval stage. 

In rare cases, they prolong their lifespans by absorbing moisture from dewdrops and rain. In captivity, these insects also drink some water from time to time. 

As a caterpillar, they eat a lot to get fat enough to start pupating. They feed on plants like Ligustrum, Fraxinus, and Syringa.

Tiger Eye Moth

Are Tiger Eye Moths Poisonous? 

Tiger eye moths might look scary due to their large size, but they are not harmful to humans. These insects are gentle, and they barely attack humans or pets. 

The caterpillar may appear threatening due to their unique appearance and long tubes, but they, too, are not harmful. 

Unlike wooly bears, they don’t have a coat of bristle-like urticating hair that can cause irritation and rashes. 

Do Tiger Eye Moths Bite?

Tiger eye moths do not bite or sting. They do not have sharp jaws or stingers that will help them hurt humans and pets. 

They escape the predators by blending well with the woody surroundings of a forest. 

They might be intimidating due to their size but in reality, they are fragile. A little pressure can break their wings or even kill an adult tiger eye moth.

How To Attract Tiger Eye Moth?

Since tiger eye moths and other brahmin moths are survival issues due to habitat destruction, some efforts were made to breed these insects in captivity. 

The result was fruitful. 

These insects do not require much attention from your end to survive. But to breed them, you must attract these insects first. Here are a few ways to attract them:

Tiger eye moths are nocturnal; they are predominantly active during the night. Like all their cousins in the moth family, they, too, get attracted to light. 

When a tiger eye moth spots a light source, it will start flying directly toward it. You can keep your porch lights on to attract these insects. 

Tiger Eye Moth

If there are any tiger-eyed moths nearby, they will certainly follow the source to reach your garden. You can put a few portable lights at different angles in your garden to get better results. 

Since the caterpillars need to eat a lot of food to grow into healthy adults, the mother moths prefer to lay eggs in host plants. 

If you add the plants mentioned in the earlier sections in your garden, it is possible to attract them in order to set up a home in your home. 

Another thing to keep in mind is to keep potential predators like lizards, bats, and birds away from your garden. Females will never lay eggs in a garden filled with predatory dangers. 

Tiger Eye Moth Meaning 

Moths are often associated with various spiritual meanings across different cultures in the world. Many cultures believe that moths are emissaries from the spirit realm. 

Thus, spotting a moth can be a sign that something is coin to an end and a new beginning awaits you. 

You will be fascinated to know that in ancient greek civilizations, moths and butterflies were often used to symbolize the souls of the dead. 

This is why moths are also seen as a symbol of death. 

Many cultures worldwide believe that spotting a moth is a sign for the person to seek and embrace the light within their soul. 

This is because moths always fly toward a light source in the dark. You might have seen these insects swarming around a street light. 

The moths are also linked to transformation as they complete a long cycle from caterpillars to adults. 

Spotting a moth can be a signal that you will soon be undergoing a major transformation in your life. 

Tiger Eye Moth

Tiger Eye Moth Facts

Tiger eye moths are not only famous for their appearance and the intricate design on their wings but there are also other fascinating facts about them. 

Let’s look at a few of them below:

  • The tiger eye moth caterpillar is one of the spookiest caterpillars on earth. The ones with greenish-yellow bodies are not that scary, but the ones with black bodies have white patterns that look like the out of a skeleton. 
  • The tiger eye caterpillar has black tube-like growths near the head and bottom area. These tubes look like dead twigs and help them camouflage from potential predators.
  • You can spot the caterpillars eating the leaves and the flowers from the lilac trees.
  • If you look at a tiger eye moth from the opposite angle, the pattern that once looked like the eyes of a tiger will then look like an owl. The colors and the patterns resemble a brown owl perfectly.

How To Get Rid Of Tiger Eye Moth?

Tiger eye moths are not dangerous, and the larvae are quite selective about the plants it consumes. 

If you find them in your garden, there is no need to take any drastic measures to get rid of them. These insects don’t bite, and they barely survive for a few days. 

 If you are annoyed with these insects being around, you can install some pheromone traps to eliminate them. 

These traps lure the insects to fly into a sticky pad. Once they land, they get stuck. You can dispose of the moth and put the trap back in the same place until all the moths are done. 

Getting rid of them is the first step, you must ensure that these moths do not return to the garden. 

For that, birds are an effective tool. Yes, birds are fearsome predators when it comes to hunting moths. 

Having a few of them flying around your garden will ensure that these moths do not roam anywhere near your yard. 

If there are no birds nearby, sprinkle some bird feed in the garden, and they will start appearing. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that moths are instantly attracted to light. Minimize the usage of porch lights to stop drawing the attention of the tiger eye moths. 

Tiger Eye Moth

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is a tiger moth caterpillar poisonous?

Most of the tiger moth caterpillars are not poisonous to humans or pets, but they are a few that cause problems to humans if touched with bare hands. 
These caterpillars have spiky bristles on the entire body which pierce the skin and cause allergies and problems like dermatitis. 

What happens if you touch a moth caterpillar?

Moth caterpillars won’t attack or bite humans, but some of them have bristle-like hair on their entire bodies. 
They might look harmless, but touching them can cause allergies, irritation, and rashes. In rare cases, people suffer from dermatitis after touching a caterpillar. 
It is wise to wear a pair of safety gloves before touching them. 

What is the rarest moth?

There are thousands of different types of moths scattered across the globe. Some are quite common, but some are extremely. 
The Lymantrine moth falls in the latter category; They are few in number and are extremely difficult to come across. 
They have transparent wings which is quite a rare feature in a moth. These moths are commonly known as Asian gypsy moths.

Are tiger moths destructive?

Tiger moths are not considered destructive; the adults don’t survive for long and usually rely on the fat storage developed during the larval stage. 
The caterpillars eat plants and leaves, but they don’t swarm a plant to completely destroy it. 

Wrap Up 

Tiger eye moths are known for the beautiful patterns on their wings. These insects are found in the eastern Himalayas, the Philippines, Western China, and Burma. 

Yes, the caterpillars and the adults can look quite bizarre, but there is no need to be scared of them. They won’t bite or sting. 

Be careful while touching or grabbing these moths, as they are quite delicate. Thank you for reading the article. 

Reader Emails

Tiger-eyed moths are a treat to watch! Many of our readers have sent us pics and letters over the years, asking us to identify these beautiful creatures with shocking patterns on their bodies. 

Please go through some of these letters below and enjoy these insect photographs, as collected in the homes and gardens of our readers.

Letter 1 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Spotted Moth
Hi Daniel,
Can you help me to identify this moth we found in our barn? We are in North Central Florida. Thanks in advance!
Sandra

Hi again Sandra,
Nice to hear from you again. You have a photo of an Eyed Tiger Moth, Ecpantheria deflorata. It has a beautiful black wooly bear caterpillar with black hairs and bands of crimson at the body segments. According to Holland: “The Eyed Tiger Moth ranges from southern News England, where it is rare, through the southern parts of the united States into Mexico. It is quite common in the Carolinas.” The larvae feed on plantain, Plantago.

Letter 2 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Peculiar looking moth/caterpillar?
Hi,
I HAVE to find out what this is! I’m attaching some pictures I took today — I have lots more if needed! Please email me back if you have any idea! I am located in Marshfield, Massachusetts which is a coastal community, however, I live in a very woodsy area with mostly pine tree’s surrounding, however there are some others in the yard that are different. I don’t know if that has anything to do with what this creature is!
Thank you for your help!!
Christina L. Sheehan

Hi Christina,
I must compliment you on some stunning photos of an Eyed Tiger Moth, Ecpantheria deflorata. It has a beautiful black wooly bear caterpillar with black hairs and bands of crimson at the body segments. According to Holland: “The Eyed Tiger Moth ranges from southern News England, where it is rare, through the southern parts of the united States into Mexico. It is quite common in the Carolinas.” The larvae feed on plantain, Plantago.

Letter 3 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

strange one…
Hello, First time on your site, and my wife and I love it. Here’s one we can’t find in books, so I guess it’s a space alien…. Thanks for figuring this one out. The picture was taken when my wife lived in Austin, TX. The blue back is more iridescent than the picture shows. All the best to you,
Rick and Jeri

Hi Rick and Jeri,
This is a newly emerged Eyed Tiger Moth or Giant Leopard Moth, Hypercompe scribonia. It is newly metamorphosed and its wings will soon expand.

Update: (12/25/2007) Eyed tiger moth, and others
Hi Daniel,
Sort of a sad story, but Merry Christmas to you anyway. I just wanted to point out (with moths and butterflies) that if something untoward happens to an individual immediately after it emerges from the chrysalis and before its wings expand and dry out (from their wet and crumpled state), I mean if, for example, the creature gets knocked to the ground and cannot immediately find a good vertical surface to crawl up on, then the wings will sometimes dry in the unexpanded state and the creature will be stuck like that, and be unable to fly. Best,
Susan J. Hewitt

Letter 4 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Cheetah Spotted Bug?
June 29, 2010
Cheetah Spotted Bug?
I found this bug on the sidewalk outside my job today and i have never seen a bug like that in my life…do yo know what it is?
Ruby from Northern Virginia
Virginia

Giant Leopard Moth

Hi Ruby,
Interestingly, your moth is named after two other large cats.  It is sometimes called the Eyed Tiger Moth, and other writers prefer that it be called the Giant Leopard Moth, but either way, scientifically it is Hypercompe scribonia.

Letter 5 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

moth
Location: jacksonville, nc
April 13, 2011 8:59 pm
I found this little guy at work hiding out on the steps, probably praying not to get stepped on. What kind is it? He’s white with black circles all over him, almost looks like someone dew on him with a black marker lol
Signature: Meg

Eyed Tiger Moth

Dear Meg,
This pretty little Tiger Moth is commonly called an Eyed Tiger Moth or Giant Leopard Moth.  There is a great deal of variation in the spotting pattern between individuals.  Adult Eyed Tiger Moths do not feed and the caterpillars are commonly called Woolly Bears.

Letter 6 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Subject: Colorful bug
Location: 48118
June 9, 2016 2:47 pm
I saw this crawling at the base of a rose bush on June 9 2016 near Chelsea MI.
It’s very colorful but what is it?
Signature: Curious G

Eyed Tiger Moth
Eyed Tiger Moth

Dear Curious G,
This is a newly metamorphosed Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth,
Hypercompe scribonia.  Once its wings expand, they will cover the colorful abdomen and the Giant Leopard Moth will be able to fly to seek out a mate.  Adult Giant Leopard Moths do not eat, surviving off the fat they stored as Woolly Bear Caterpillars.

Letter 7 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Subject: Very pretty moth
Location: Crosslanes, West Virginia
June 3, 2017 4:08 am
I Have never seen a moth like this I’ve spent many of my summers in Webster County ,Cowen,West Virginia and have seen similar moths it’s like their furry almost like if you would touch them they would be as soft as a kitten although I never have I know that hurts them but it struck me odd when I saw it I have lived here my whole life and never seen one like that he is on the side of my purse and he started fluttering around like he was doing a mating call the picture was taken June 3, 2017 at 1:08 am
Signature: Susan S

Eyed Tiger Moth

Dear Susan,
These images of an Eyed Tiger Moth or Giant Leopard Moth,
Hypercompe scribonia, on your colorful purse are positively psychedelic.  According to BugGuide:  “larvae feed on a great variety of broad-leaved plants, including banana, cabbage, cherry, dandelion, maple, orange, sunflower, violet, willow.”  We will be post-dating your submission to go live later in the month when our editorial staff is away from the office on holiday.

Eyed Tiger Moth

Letter 8 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Subject: Maybe a moth, but what type?
Location: Hampton, Virginia (August 10, 2017)
August 10, 2017 9:29 am
Good afternoon,
I found this little guy on my back passenger door, just below the window. I’m hypnotized by the pattern of his/her wings, and can’t help but wonder just who he/she may be…
[Rambling ensues, but long-story short thank you for the service and humane perspective you provide.]
(Lamar here, first time-visitor. It dawned me after I happened to take this photo that, in this day-and-age, there is likely a website out there with the ability to identify a critter through the means of a shared photo.
Sure enough. This is a great service you all offer. Sadly, the first results in my query to Google were related to extermination companies. In understand many believe they are limited to the typical service, but I was rather delighted to find WhatsThatBug with one or two scrolls, and to find that your service does not endorse extermination… it leaves our times all the more hopeful.)
Signature: (I’m not entirely sure, but any signature you would wish to add would work well, of course.)

Eyed Tiger Moth

Hi Lamar,
This is an Eyed Tiger Moth or Giant Leopard Moth,
Hypercompe scribonia.  We are very pleased to hear that you support our “humane perspective”.

Good evening Daniel,
Thank you for getting back to me so soon.
I did in fact type a “p” instead of an “o.” That happens too frequently.
After some reading last night about the Giant Leopard Moth, I began to wonder a little more.
Yesterday, after work, 4-5 hours after having first seen the moth at lunch, he was still there in the same location. I didn’t want to drive off with the moth on the door. So, I gently let him/her crawl on my hand and rest there for awhile:

Eyed Tiger Moth Lamar
Actually, he/she didn’t seem in any hurry. I couldn’t even get the guy to properly nestle onto a surface for awhile. While I didn’t want to leave him/her for the birds/other forces, I was not sure how he/she would survive in my car for a few more hours, either.
Ultimately, I placed him/her in the buds of a Crate-Myrtle, and he/she crawled along.
It was daylight also, which seemed untimely. I’m still trying to understand this balance of embracing and leaving alone when appropriate. Lately, I’ve experienced a type of communication with other beings lately that I haven’t been able to define, other than it is comforting. I know that sounds insane, just as well.
With payday upon me, I’m about to happily donate to WhatsThatBug! I really thank you for your time,
Lamar
Hi again Lamar,
Thank you both for your kindness to this Eyed Tiger Moth, for which we are tagging you with the Bug Humanitarian Award, and for your intentions to contribute to our site maintenance.

Letter 9 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Subject:  Beautiful Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Seminole Florida
Date: 11/13/2017
Time: 01:45 PM EDT
Hi Bugman  I saw this Beautiful Moth   and don’t know what kind it is. Would you Please identify this Beautiful Moth for me. Thanks Very Much!  and Have a Great Day! Brent Hansen
How you want your letter signed:  Brent Hansen

Eyed Tiger Moth

Dear Brent,
This beautiful moth,
Hypercompe scribonia, has two common names that reference to giant cats.  Though Giant Leopard Moth is the more commonly used name, we prefer Eyed Tiger Moth as it is an additional reference to the tribe to which it belongs, Arctiini, the Tiger Moths.

Thanks Again Very Much Daniel! Appreciate your help again. Was having trouble uploading images I have several more I will try to send again. Thanks Again!

Letter 10 – Eyed Tiger Moth

 

Subject:  what is this bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Arlington, VA
Date: 06/23/2021
Time: 12:03 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Seen on bike trail by a neighbor
How you want your letter signed:  Cyrelle

Eyed Tiger Moth

Dear Cyrelle,
This beauty is an Eyed Tiger Moth or Giant Leopard Moth,
Hypercompe scribonia.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

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12 thoughts on “Discover the Tiger Eye Moth: Key Facts and Information”

  1. This gorgeous “bug” was found clinging to an outside window sill wrapped in a dead leaf in Green Cove Springs, Florida.

    Reply
  2. I found one hanging on back screen door he is one beautiful moth ….. I told my mom my step dad sent it to say good morning he passed Thursday 6-14-18 ……… connellsville, PA

    Reply

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