Tussock Moth: Essential Facts for Curious Minds

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Tussock moths are a fascinating group of insects with over 30 species found in North America. Their appearance is quite distinctive, with adults typically sporting shades of brown, gray, or white and having comblike antennae. These moths exhibit sexual dimorphism – females are often larger than males and may even be flightless with reduced or absent wings. Their larvae, known as caterpillars, are also quite interesting with their hairy appearance.

One well-known species, the banded tussock moth, has adult forewings that are pale yellow-tan or cream-colored with a distinctive checkered pattern. These moths can be found in the eastern United States, and their caterpillars like to feed on the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. Adult moths make their appearance in June and July, with females laying egg masses on the underside of leaves.

As you explore the world of tussock moths, you’ll learn about the various species, their habitats, and their roles in the ecosystem. This fascinating group of insects is just waiting to be discovered, so keep your eyes peeled and dive into the world of tussock moths, understanding all there is to know about them.

Identifying Tussock Moths

Tussock moths belong to the family Erebidae, and they come in various species, each with unique features. To identify them, you should pay attention to several characteristics. In this section, we will discuss the key features of Tussock moths and how to identify them in a brief and friendly manner.

As you look at the Tussock moth, you will notice that their colors range from white, brown, black, gray, and orange. These colors form different patterns of markings, spots, and stripes on their wings, making identification easier. For example, the Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris) has a unique pattern of bands and spots on its wings, helping you distinguish it from other species.

Tussock moths typically have a modest wingspan. Adult moths of different species may vary slightly in size and patterns. When identifying a Tussock moth, it’s essential to focus on its wings’ characteristics as they often have distinct markings that set them apart.

Some tips for identifying Tussock moths include:

  • Look for the specific colors and patterns on their wings.
  • Observe any distinct markings such as spots, stripes, or bands.
  • Check for size and wingspan variations across species.

In some cases, a comparison table can be useful for identifying different Tussock moth species. However, due to the vast array of patterns and colors across species in the family Erebidae, a comprehensive table may not be feasible in a brief section. The key takeaway is to keep an eye out for the distinct features and patterns that these moths display to correctly identify the specific Tussock moth species you encounter.

Lifecycle of Tussock Moths

Eggs: Tussock moths begin their life as eggs. Typically, female moths lay clusters of eggs on tree trunks or twigs. These eggs are covered by a protective layer of hairs from the mother’s body.

Larvae: Once the eggs hatch, they reveal hairy caterpillars. Tussock moth caterpillars are easily recognizable due to their distinctive tufts of hair. As they grow, they feed on various plants and trees, getting ready for the next stage in their life cycle.

Pupation: When the caterpillars are fully grown, they create cocoons to enter the pupal stage. They spin these cocoons among leaves or tree twigs, often covered in a layer of protective silk and hairs from their bodies.

Here are some features and characteristics of the Tussock moth’s life cycle:

  • The life cycle of tussock moths consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Tussock moth caterpillars are hairy, with distinctive hair tufts that can cause skin irritation when touched.
  • Females are often flightless and larger than males, with reduced or absent wings.
  • Tussock moth larvae feed on various plants and trees, sometimes causing defoliation.

During the pupal stage, they undergo a transformation and eventually emerge as adult moths. The process of metamorphosis can take several weeks to complete, depending on the species and environmental conditions.

Adults: Adult tussock moths have unique features, including hairy bodies and comblike antennae. Female moths are frequently flightless due to their larger size and reduced or absent wings. After mating, females lay eggs, and the cycle starts all over again.

Tussock moths may have multiple generations per year, depending on species and climate. Some species overwinter as larvae or cocoons, allowing them to survive in colder conditions. The entire lifespan of a tussock moth varies, but typically ranges from a few months to a year, depending on the climate and availability of food sources.

Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Tussock moth caterpillars are a fascinating group of insects that belong to the Erebidae family, including species such as the hickory tussock moth and the milkweed tussock moth. These caterpillars can be recognized by their distinct round and hairy appearance, with yellow and black bristles covering their bodies.

Handling these caterpillars is not recommended, as their bristles can cause skin irritation or a stinging sensation. In particular, the hairs on the nun moth caterpillar, known scientifically as Lymantria monacha, are known to cause an itchy rash.

Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars are an example of these hairy creatures that have evolved some unique features. They have strong appetites and tend to feed in clusters during their early stages of development, which can lead to significant damage to their host plants. Additionally, their adult form, the milkweed tussock moth, has an ultrasonic sound-emitting organ that serves to warn its primary predator, bats, of their noxious taste. Read more about them here.

When considering whether to keep these creatures as pets, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Here are some aspects to consider:


  • Captivating appearance
  • Unique features
  • Can be an educational experience


  • Bristles can cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful to plants in your garden or home

In comparison to other types of caterpillars, tussock moth caterpillars are distinguished by their hairy bodies and unique features, such as their sound-emitting organs. While they can be mesmerizing to observe, it is important to be cautious about the potential for skin irritation and damage to plants.

So, if you find these hairy nibblers munching on your plants or wandering through your garden, treat them with care and be mindful of their unique traits.

Habitat and Distribution

Tussock moths can be found throughout North America, with about 30 species in this region alone ^. They usually inhabit areas with trees, shrubs, forests, and meadows.

These moths, particularly the caterpillar stage, prefer specific host plants such as milkweed. Milkweed leaves are a common food source for tussock moth caterpillars, playing a crucial role in their survival and success.

When comparing their habitat preferences, different species have unique preferences. For instance, Lymantria dispar, known as the gypsy moth, is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to North America. It prefers oak trees. On the other hand, the browntail moth chooses tree branches and trunks as its habitat, while the satin moth is commonly found on shrubs.

To further understand the habitat and distribution of tussock moths, let’s compare a few species in bullet points:

  • Lymantria dispar (Gypsy Moth): Native to Eurasia, introduced to North America; prefers oak trees.
  • Browntail Moth: Found on tree branches and trunks of host plants.
  • Satin Moth: Usually located on shrubs.

It’s essential to be familiar with your local tussock moth species and their habitats, aiding in proper identification and understanding of their ecological roles.

Tussock Moths and Ecosystems

Tussock moths are fascinating insects belonging to the lepidoptera order. They play an essential role in various ecosystems, impacting both foliage and their predators.

Let’s dive into the world of tussock moths.

You’ll find these moths in a variety of habitats, from mixed forests to the shrubby edges where woods meet fields. They are known to have a widespread presence across North America, including species like the white-marked tussock moth.

In ecosystems, tussock moth caterpillars feed on foliage from trees and shrubs. While they can occasionally cause defoliation locally, this grazing activity can lead to:

  • Growth of new foliage
  • Increased light penetration
  • Diversification of plant species

It’s important to note that tussock moths can become pests in some situations, especially when their populations surge. Managing these outbreaks is crucial in maintaining native species and ensuring the conservation of ecosystems.

Tussock moths also contribute to the food chain as prey for various predators. Birds are their primary predators, but they also serve as a food source for small mammals and other insects.

As mentioned earlier, the moth’s scientific classification lies within the Orgyia, Erebidae, and Lymantriidae families. Members of the Orgyia family, like the fir tussock moth, are commonly found in Florida.

Now, with a better understanding of their role in ecosystems, you can appreciate the positive impact these captivating insects have on animals, plants, and the environment overall.

Tussock Moths as Pests

Tussock moths can be quite the pests in various regions. They can cause severe damage to trees and other plants, leading to defoliation. For example, the white-marked tussock moth can seriously damage plants like oak or poplar trees.

These moths have evolved several defense mechanisms to protect themselves. One such mechanism is the release of venom from their caterpillar’s hair when they face predators. This venom may cause skin irritation or even allergic reactions in some people who come into contact with them.

Dealing with tussock moths can be challenging for gardeners and homeowners. You may need a strategic approach to prevent them from causing severe damage to your plants. One effective method is using the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis as a biological control agent. This bacteria can specifically target the caterpillars without harming beneficial insects.

Here are some of the key features of the white-marked tussock moths:

  • Pests: They can defoliate and damage a wide range of host plants.
  • Defense: Their caterpillar’s hairs release venom, which helps protect them from predators.
  • Control: Using Bacillus thuringiensis is a safe and effective option for managing these pests.

In conclusion, tussock moths can cause significant damage to your plants if left unchecked. However, understanding their characteristics and employing effective control strategies like Bacillus thuringiensis can help you protect your garden and trees from these pests.

Unique Characteristics of Tussock Moths

As a friendly guide, let’s explore various unique characteristics of tussock moths that set them apart from other moth species.

Tussock moths belong to a group of insects closely related to the distinctive and well-known tiger moth. Some tussock moth species, like the milkweed tiger moth (Euchaetes egle), have fascinating features.

These moths showcase sexual dimorphism, which means that male and female tussock moths are visibly different. For instance, female tussock moths are typically larger than males and may even be flightless. Some females have reduced or absent wings.

The spongy moth, a type of tussock moth, creates silken tents as a protective structure during the larval stage. In comparison to other moths and butterflies, tussock moths are medium-sized and display less vibrant colors.

While some moth species feed on nectar, tussock moths have a different diet. Notable species to compare include the satin moth and the nun moth. Here’s a quick comparison table for your reference:

Characteristic Tussock Moth Satin Moth Nun Moth
Size Medium Small-to-medium Medium-to-large
Wing pattern Variable Satiny-white wings Distinct dark bands
Larval structure Silken tents Cocoon-like nest Solitary larvae
Diet Leaves of trees Willow and poplar Coniferous trees

In summary, tussock moths display several unique characteristics compared to other moth species, including sexual dimorphism, specialized habitats, and different feeding habits. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to identify and appreciate these fascinating insects in their natural environment.

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 – Tussock Caterpillar from Singapore


Subject: Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Location: Singapore
March 2, 2015 7:41 pm
I found this caterpillar crawling on my mother’s eggplant about a week ago, and as I’ve a weird interest in all kinds of creepy crawlies, I’ve made it my mission to see this guy to adulthood. He’s molted twice now and I’ve been feeding him leaves off the plant I found him on.
Through google I’ve determined that this guy is a Tussock Moth caterpillar, but I couldn’t find any images or information as to exactly what species he is and/or how the adult moth looks like. I’m attaching a few pictures of it as of 3 March 15, in hopes that you can help!
Thanks in advance!
Signature: Saphiea

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Saphiea,
We agree that this looks like a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Orgyia,  but we have not had any luck determining a definite species.  Females in this genus are flightless, and it will be interesting to see what happens when your adult ecloses.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Letter 2 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from the Philippines


Location: Sitio Inamong, Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, Philippines
November 15, 2016 4:10 am
Hi Mr. BugMan! I’d like to verify if this is a White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar? Coz the 4 tufts toward the head are brown instead of the usual white tufts. Found this in a field of cogon grass. Thanks a lot!
Signature: -Dana

Tussock Moth Caterpillar:  Orgyia species
Tussock Moth Caterpillar: Orgyia species

Dear Dana,
Your caterpillar bears an uncanny resemblance to the White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Orgyia leucostigma, but because of your location and the subtle differences in color, we suspect your individual is a closely related species in the same genus.   Project Noah has a dead ringer for your caterpillar posted, but alas, it is only identified to the genus level.  Project Noah indicates:  “The caterpillar, or larval, stage of these species often has a distinctive appearance of alternating bristles and haired projections. Like other families of moths, many Tussock Moth caterpillars have urticating hairs (often hidden among longer, softer hairs) which can cause painful reactions if they come into contact with skin.”

Letter 3 – Rusty Tussock Moth Cocoon and Eggs from England


Cocoon with raised circular bumps
March 28, 2010
Hello Bugman, from across the pond. I spotted this cocoon, attached to a branch of a 2 year old Hebe, and can’t find out what it is. It’s about the size of my thumb, but fatter – completely secured along it’s length to the branch, and looking very solid. The small circles on the outside are almost like little hatched eggs – these have confused me, as whatever is inside would have had to crawl in after making them, rather than spinning a cocoon around itself? It is as if it needed extra armour. Inside is something which is filling the whole cavity, and looking a bit furry 🙂
Surrey, South East England

Rusty Tussock Moth Cocoon and Eggs

Hi Luigi,
This is a most interesting situation.  Before we saw your location was England, we were certain that this must be a Cecropia Moth Cocoon.  It is actually a Small Emperor Moth Cocoon, Saturnia pavonia, which can be viewed on the Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa website.   Eggs are typically laid in neat rings around the twigs of the food plant, and it seems like the moth that emerged from this cocoon was a female and she laid her eggs on her own cocoon.  We are going to contact Bill Oehlke with this unusual situation and he may request permission to post the photos on his own website.

Rusty Tussock Moth Cocoon and Eggs

Correction:  Rusty Tussock Moth Eggs and Cocoon
March 28, 2010
These are not the eggs of a saturniid but rather the rusty tussock moth (Lymantriidae: Orgyia antiqua), which is native to Europe but is now found throughout North America and elsewhere.  It is typical of this species and a number of other tussock moths for the eggs to be deposited right on the female’s cocoon, because the females are flightless.
There is a photo similar to these in my new book, “Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates,” which I think y’all might enjoy.  There is some information about it here: http://www.northernnaturalists.com/invert_tracks.html

Ed. Note:
We found a matching photo on Wikipedia.

Thank you so much for your reply – that’s really interesting.  I’ve just had another look at it, and there is definitely something still inside the cocoon, so the moth has not yet emerged (I see that the UK flight time starts in mid-April).  I haven’t noticed any larvae of the kind, and no larvae damage to the plant (a Hebe). I wonder if something else entirely has laid its eggs on this cocoon?

Letter 4 – Laugher Caterpillar and Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Two fuzzy caterpillars
Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 9:56 AM
I found this caterpillar on the ground underneath my oak tree. His white fuzz had caught the afternoon sunlight causing him to almost glow! He was making his way across my driveway towards the trunk of said oak tree. I snapped a bunch of pictures hoping to ID him online, but I cant find anything that looks like him. I stuck him on the tree just in case that was his destination (my roommates kill bugs!). And since I just referred to it as a he throughout, can you tell me if caterpillars have genders? The second was found on a weed very near the first one. It looks like a tussock moth caterpillar but I cant find an exact match. Love your site, and thanks in advance!
Athens, Georgia


Hi Dana,
Your white caterpillar with the markings on its head is known as the Laugher, Charadra deridens.  You may read about it and see a photo on the Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests website.  We believe your Tussock Moth Caterpillar is in the genus Dasychira based on images posted to BugGuide.

Tussock Caterpillar
Tussock Caterpillar

Letter 5 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Taiwan


Taiwan Caterpillar ID
Hi WTB people,
I found the following caterpillar methodically devouring my hibiscus plant (on my 14th floor apartment deck in Taichung, Taiwan). I am wondering if you can identify it for me?
Thanks so much for the time
Brent Wilken

Hi Brent,
This is some species of Tussock Moth, but we can’t tell you the exact species.

Update: (03/06/2008) Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Taiwan
Hi, the Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Taiwan looks very similar to the species Dasychira mendosa Hubner. Some nice photos (both adult moth and caterpillar) can be found here: http://gaga.jes.mlc.edu.tw/new23/9410/007.htm The mandarin description says the caterpillar of D. mendosa feeds on Water Lily, Ixora, and Acacia confusa (a perennial tree native to Asia). Other webpages also mention rose, citrus, camellia, soy, and sweetgum as possible food plants –a really wide range of variety! best,
PS.The website above is a pretty good online bug guide for identifying all sorts of critters in Taiwan; the contents are all in mandarin, but Latin names are provided; index page at http://gaga.jes.mlc.edu.tw/new23/cp021.htm

Letter 6 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Singapore


Subject: Caterpillars
Location: On a Chiku (Sapodilla) tree in Singapore.
June 16, 2016 11:04 pm
Dear Bugman,
I found this caterpillar chomping on my Sapodilla leaves this morning. It’s about 6 cm in length. Would you be able to identify it?
Signature: Dillan

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Dillan,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the Tribe Orgyiini. 

Letter 7 – Flightless Female Tussock moth and Eggs from Australia


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!

Letter 8 – Tussock Moth from Malaysia


Comb Feeler Moth
Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 7:04 AM
Hi bugman! Greetings from Malaysia!
I stumbled upon this little guy quite late in the night.
It is small, measuring around 4cm with an awesome pose.
Not the least camera shy, I clicked away at it, even with flash and everything it stayed put for sometime before I scooped it up into a box and let it out!
I don’t know what species this is and would appreciate your help in identifying it.
Thanks in advance
Kuan Yew
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Unknown Moth from Malaysia
Unknown Moth from Malaysia

Hi Kuan,
We are not even sure what family your unusual moth belongs to taxonomically. Perhaps it is one of the Owlet Moths in the family Noctuidae or perhaps it is one of the Lappet Moths and Tent Caterpillars in the family Lasiocampidae . We hope ono of our readers will be able to provide a more thorough answer.

I think Artemesia is right, it is a Tussock moth (Lymantriidae), probably Dasychira mendosa. For comparison, check the image, second row from the bottom, at:
Regards. Karl

Letter 9 – Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: What’s this caterpillar?
Location: Croton on Hudson NY 10520
August 23, 2014 10:24 am
Dear Bugman,
I found Whiskers (that’s his name) at the playground in Croton-on-Hudson, NY on August 23 2014 at 1:00pm (approximately). If you look past his fuzz it looks like he has lots of little black spots on his body, but otherwise he’s pale yellowish white with a brownish red head and a lot of tufts – the ones in the front are brownish red like his face and they are yellowish white towards the end of him.
I love him!
What’s this big? –Tristan Age 7
Signature: Tristan, Age 7

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Triatan,
Your caterpillar is a Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota harrisii, and you can read more about it on BugGuide.


Letter 10 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  What bug ls it.
Geographic location of the bug:  South west fl
Date: 11/19/2017
Time: 06:11 PM EDT
What is it
How you want your letter signed:  Ron

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Ron,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Dasychira, but we are not certain of the species as the caterpillars of the different species look quite similar, and there are several species reported from Florida.  You can see images on BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: what type of moth caterpillar
Location: Prescott Valley, AZ Yavapai county
September 11, 2013 9:05 pm
What type of moth will this caterpillar become??
Signature: AJ

Davis' Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Dave,
We have identified your caterpillar on BugGuide as Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota davisii, and it is a new species for our site.  BugGuide also has an image of the adult moth, one of the Tiger Moths.

Letter 12 – Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: strange black white yellow caterpillars are invading my yard
Location: south eastern Arizona
August 31, 2014 10:11 pm
This is the second year my yard has literally been taken over by hundreds of caterpillars so many that when you step out side onto my porch it sounds like it’s raining due to the unbelievable amount of caterpillars.normally I wouldn’t worry but within the last two years I’ve been trying to find our exactly what kind of caterpillar thus is and if they are harmful in any way please help!
Signature: concerned/curious

Davis' Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear concerned/curious,
This is a Davis’ Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota davisii, which we matched to an image on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide, the range is:  “Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern Texas,” but there is no information regarding periodic outbreaks of large populations, though that is an occurence that is frequent with other species of Tussock Moths.

Letter 13 – Flightless Tussock Moth with Eggs from Australia


Subject: Bug Identification
Location: Medowie, Australia NSW
February 17, 2015 1:28 pm
I was hoping to have this bug identified. It is in a tree in our yard in Medowie NSW. No-one seems to know what it is. There is a circular spider web right next to the bug & cocoon of eggs.
Signature: Toni Alley

Tussock Moth with Eggs
Tussock Moth with Eggs

Dear Toni,
This is a flightless female Tussock Moth with her eggs, probably
Orgyia australis.

Thank you for letting me know 🙂
Toni Alley

Letter 14 – Hickory Tussock Cocoon caused contact dermatitis


Subject: chrysalis
Location: Sidney, Maine
December 19, 2013 4:31 am
My friend’s son touched the cocoon and pretty quickly developed contact dermatitis. We’re wondering what butterfly/moth/something else? makes this cocoon.
Signature: Julia Hanauer-Milne

Possibly an Asp Cocoon
Hickory Tussock Moth Cocoon

Hi Julia,
It might not be possible for us to provide an accurate species identification based on your somewhat blurry image of a cocoon in a plastic bag, but we will try to provide you with some explanation.  Many furry caterpillars have utricating hairs that can cause irritation, especially in sensitive individuals.  Many of those caterpillars also use the hairs when spinning a cocoon to protect the pupa.  A chrysalis is the the pupa of a butterfly and this is definitely not a butterfly.  Furry caterpillars are generally moth caterpillars.  The Asp or Caterpillar of a Southern Flannel Moth is one that comes to mind, however, this species is generally found in Southern states.  BugGuide does have a photo of the cocoon and the pupa housed inside, and they look somewhat similar to your photo.  BugGuide reports the genus from as far north as New York, but BugGuide also provides this disclaimer:  “The information below is based on images submitted and identified by contributors. Range and date information may be incomplete, overinclusive, or just plain wrong.”
  We would not entirely discount that this cocoon belongs to an Asp, but considering your location, that is probably unlikely.  Bangor Daily News has an online article warning of the stinging Hickory Tussock Caterpillar, Lophocampa caryae, which states:  ” [Charlene] Donahue [forest entomologist with the Department of Conservation] advised people to leave the caterpillar alone because of the possibility of a reaction. They also should be cautious when cleaning up leaf litter on the ground since any hairs left behind by the caterpillar also could cause problems with some people, she added. She recommended that people wear gloves when cleaning up yards.  Some people aren’t bothered by the caterpillar but others could have a reaction that ranges from a mild to fairly severe rash, according to Donahue.  ‘It’s like poison ivy,’ she said.”   That article does not picture the cocoon.  The cocoon of the Hickory Tussock Moth pictured on BugGuide looks like a very close match to your cocoon, and considering the attention it has been getting in Maine lately, we believe that is a proper identification.

Letter 15 – Himalayan Dragon: two foreign mystery bugs


What an excellent and fun website! I thought you might be able to help me with two mystery bugs that have proven baffling. The first is a caterpillar I saw in the mountains of central Nepal. It was at about 2000 meters, in cleared but overgrown land. The caterpillar was about 6 and a half cm long, and as you can see below, quite colorful. For lack of a better term, I’ve nicknamed it the ‘Himalayan Dragon’. Any ideas what this dragon turned into later in life?

Hi Robbie,
Thanks for the photos of the exotica. They are a mystery to us as well. I can tell you with some degree of assurance, that the caterpillar will probably metamorphose into a moth and not a butterfly. It looks like it is some species of Tiger Moth or Tussock Moth, but we cannot be sure. We are content with the name Himalayan Dragon.

Letter 16 – Mating Tussock Moths


Subject:  Florida moth/butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Vero beach Florida
Date: 12/19/2017
Time: 06:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I cannot seem to find the identity of these two. Picture was taken during mating, then aftwr they separated.
How you want your letter signed:  Rob Kellar

Mating Tussock Moths

Dear Rob,
We are currently going through old requests that arrived while our editorial staff was away for the holidays, and we are attempting to catch up on some old identifications and posting those that will be of greatest interest to our readership.  These are mating Tussock Moths in the genus
Orgyia.  The image with the single individual depicts the male, the gender that is capable of flight and that has very plumose antennae to better enable him to locate the flightless, sedentary female that emerges from pupation and releases pheromones.  Based on this BugGuide image, we believe you might have encountered White Marked Tussock Moths, Orgyia leucostigma.  Interestingly, the wings on the female in your image are more developed than the usual vestigial wings we have seen pictured in other examples posted on the internet.

Male Tussock Moth

Letter 17 – Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar


Subject: Big found in Southern Indiana
Location: Southern Indiana
August 3, 2015 5:26 pm
This bug was found in a friends garage. There were several around. And if you bothered them, they would roll up into a ball and then later unroll and crawl off. It was a fluffy looking little fella about one inch long.
Signature: June bullock

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

Hi June,
Is there milkweed growing near the garage?  This is a Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar,
Euchaetes egle, and they are never found far from a milkweed food plant.

Thank you for such a quick response.  My friend will be happy to know this little fellow has a name. She was showing it to everybody trying to find out what it was.

Letter 18 – Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar


Subject:  Pretty catterpillars
Geographic location of the bug:  CT
Date: 08/06/2019
Time: 06:39 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi! I love your site! You’ve been very helpful in the past and I’m hoping for another ID. I found these fellows on some milkweed in my yard. What can you tell me? Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Jenn

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

Dear Jenn,
Many folks are planting milkweed to attract Monarch Butterflies, but there are in fact numerous insects that depend upon milkweed, hence our Milkweed Meadow tag which includes documentation of many insects associated with the plant.  This is a gorgeous image of a Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar,
Euchaetes egle.  See BugGuide for more information on the Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar.

Letter 19 – Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings


Subject: What type of caterpillar?
Location: Central Connecticut
July 18, 2014 5:00 pm
Wondering what type of caterpillar these are? Found on milkweed about 75 or so in a group. I’ve seen and photographed monarchs, but these little guys have hair. I didn’t see any eggs and don’t believe monarchs come out in large batches. I know there are limited caterpillars who eat milkweed. Photo taken July 18th in central Connecticut.
Signature: Thanks, Steve

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings
Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings

Hi Steve,
You are correct that not many caterpillars feed on milkweed, and we had a hunch as to the identity of your caterpillars, but we wanted to find documentation to support our inkling.  Though it is a generalization, butterflies usually lay eggs singly while moths often lay eggs in large clusters.  We could telll that these were moth caterpillars, and we suspected them to be Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars,
Euchaetes egle, though we do not have any images of hatchlings in our own archive.  We found an image on BugGuide that matches your hatchling Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars.

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars
Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Letter 20 – Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings


Subject: Larvae on Milkweed leaves
Location: Haldimand County
August 12, 2015 12:05 pm
These little guys.., about a third of an inch long, had eaten several Eastern Milkweed leaves into skeletal tubes.. they seem to live in a colony on the underside of the leaves and are covered in their own webbing.. I want to know if they are predacious on the Monarch Larvae.. The Monarchs are truly struggling here in Haldimand County, Ontario, Canada..
Signature: Bill from Heaven Farm

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings
Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar Hatchlings

Dear Bill,
We believe these are early instar Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars, and you can compare your image with this image from BugGuide.   Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars feed on milkweed, as you observed, and we do not believe they pose any threat to Monarch Caterpillars.

Letter 21 – Milkweed Moth Caterpillar


Can You Identify This Caterpillar?
Hi Bugman!
We have a butterfly garden, and I was just surprised to discover about 20 of these hairy orange, black and white caterpillars feeding on some plants out there. They’re small as caterpillars go — about 3/4″. I tried to find some like these on the internet, and I couldn’t, but in the course of trying I did find my way to your great website. Naturally, I’m curious to what these are (and I don’t plan to hurt or move them). Can you assist us in identifying them?
Cathy Whitt
Washington, DC

Of course we can Cathy,
You have Milkweed Moth Caterpillars, Euchaetias egle. The caterpillar is distinctive and unforgettable. This is a common insect, ranging from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and beyond. The caterpillars feed on plants in the milkweed family. The adult moth is creamy white-winged tiger moth with a yellow body. The body has black spots.

Letter 22 – Parasitized Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  nest
Geographic location of the bug:  Florida
Date: 09/13/2017
Time: 02:17 PM EDT
Please help me identify this “nest” that we found on a Philodendron leaf. We are guessing some kind of parasitic wasp.
How you want your letter signed:  Florida

Parasitized Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Florida,
We found a similar looking image on BugGuide identified as a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Dasychira that has been parasitized, but the Parasitoid was not identified.

Letter 23 – Possibly Tussock Moth Caterpillar Hatchlings from Australia


Subject:  Moth larvae
Geographic location of the bug:  Morayfield, Queensland
Date: 01/23/2018
Time: 09:10 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please help! These little critters are being laid by moths I believe. I find them mostly outside my house for example under the eaves but most annoyingly under my pergola or even inside if I leave the door open. They eventually get free from there ‘nest’ and dangle down in a long silk like train, falling onto me and I find them all over me! I imagine they would also be getting into my hair and they are giving me the eeby jeebies! This photo was taken looking down when I found a ‘nest’ under my outdoor glass table. Do you know what type of moth lays these little buggers and how do I deter them? (The moths)
Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Kind Regards, Raelene

Possibly Tussock Moth Hatchlings

Dear Raelene,
Immature Caterpillars can be difficult to identify with certainty.  Is there a pine tree nearby?  These look like they might be hatchlings of the Painted Pine Moth or White Spotted Tussock Moth,
Orgyia australia, a species pictured on the Brisbane Insect site.  You need to scroll down to see the egg mass.  If our identification is correct, the female that laid these eggs is flightless, and the eggs are laid in the remnants of the cocoon from which she emerged.  Winged males will fly to the female to mate.  We do not provide extermination advice.

Letter 24 – Probable Tussock Moth Caterpillar from South Africa


Subject: Skull faced caterpillar
Location: Gamkaskloof ”Die Hell” Western cape, South Africa
January 25, 2013 3:03 am
Hi Guys.
On a recent camping trip, I found this little guy crawling along my serviette.
He was only about 20mm long and looked more like a caterpillar than a millipede / centipede.
Thank you.
Signature: Skull faced caterpillar

Tussock Moth Caterpillar, we believe

Hi Kevin,
Our quick research turned up no visual matches, but we believe, based on the similarity of appearance to some North American Tussock Moth Caterpillars, that this is also a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the subfamily Lymantriinae.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Daniel.
Thank you very much for your prompt reply.
Interesting – I will have to read further on what Tussock moths we get in SA.
Keep up the good work!
Kind Regards.

Hi again Kevin,
You might have some books on South African insects in your local library.  If you find out what species this is, please write back to us with any updates.

Letter 25 – Probably Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Unknown Bug
Location: Limbazi, Latvia
May 20, 2015 6:56 am
We found this bug last year in our garden.
I’d be really interested to know what it is.
Signature: Andrew Doxsey

Probably Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Probably Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Andrew,
This appears to be some species of Tussock Moth Caterpillar, and there is an image of a Scarce Vapourer Caterpillar on UK Moths that looks very similar.

Letter 26 – Probably Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Malawi


Subject:  caterpillar identification
Geographic location of the bug:  Malawi, Africa
Date: 10/24/2017
Time: 07:00 PM EDT
My niece found this in Malawi. Can you help id it? Thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Marilyn

Tussock Moth Caterpillar we believe

Dear Marilyn,
Though we have not had any luck locating a matching image to your spectacular caterpillar, we believe it is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the subfamily Lymantriidae.  Here is a Getty Images example of an obviously different species.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck at an identification than we have had.

Letter 27 – Rusty Vapor Moth Caterpillar


Whats this Bug?
Location: Tampa, Florida
April 1, 2011 12:56 pm
Can you please identify this bug for me and my facebook friend Kelly N.?
Signature: CURIOUS Richard S.

White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi CURIOUS Richard S.,
This is the caterpillar of a White Marked Tussock Moth, though we love the alternate name that BugGuide indicates, the Rusty Vapor Moth.

Letter 28 – Satin Moth


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 (http://bugguide.net/node/view/27833) 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.

Letter 29 – Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar


Subject:  Fuzzy Catapillar
Geographic location of the bug:  East Texas
Date: 10/16/2017
Time: 12:34 PM EDT
This caterpillar fell on to our picnic table out of the Sycamore tree yesterday…we were curious as to what kind it was… Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan Strawn

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Susan,
Based on this BugGuide image, we feel pretty confident that this is a Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar, which is further reinforced by your observation that it fell from a sycamore tree.

Letter 30 – Tussock Caterpillar visits WTB?


Subject: Caterpillar on PC
Location: Atlanta, GA
July 10, 2014 1:01 pm
Thought you might enjoy this one. I was looking up a caterpillar on your site on while it crawled across my monitor.
Signature: Chris Davis

Tussock Caterpillar
Tussock Caterpillar

Dear Chris,
We are incredibly amused with your image of this Tussock Caterpillar crawling across our homepage.  We believe your individual is in the genus
Halysidota, and it might be a Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota tessellaris, based on its resemblance to this individual on BugGuide.

Tussock Caterpillar
Tussock Caterpillar


Letter 31 – Tussock Caterpillar from Malaysia


Subject:  Caterpillar ID required
Geographic location of the bug:  Malaysia
Date: 03/23/2019
Time: 09:33 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  A solitary caterpillar found on a post in Malaysia. I think it’s some sort of tussock moth but an ID would be appreciated.
How you want your letter signed:  Pat

Tussock Caterpillar

Dear Pat,
We agree that this is probably a Tussock Moth Caterpillar from the subfamily Lymantriinae, but we are unable to provide you with a species identification at this time.

Letter 32 – Tussock Moth


Subject: Moth Newly Emerged During Blizzard!?
Location: Champaign, IL USA
January 5, 2014 10:12 pm
I’ve been a long time reader of the site, and thought you might find this one interesting. I was sitting in the basement (finished, half below grade) this evening and heard a humming, buzzing noise from behind the couch. It turned out to be this moth, which looked very ‘fresh.’ I wonder if it had pupated indoors and has just emerged? Do you have any idea what kind of moth it might be? I thought the green striped on the back were nice.
Anyway, I set it near my plants in the kitchen, dribbled some water nearby for it to drink (it also liked the salt on my finger). No chance of it mating, I’m afraid.
Tonight (Jan. 5th 2014) there are blizzard conditions here in Illinois, and it’s twenty below zero with the wind chill. It got cold fast and early this year. Thanks in advance!
Signature: Cold Enough for Me!

Tussock Moth:  Halysidota species
Tussock Moth: Halysidota species

Dear Cold Enough for Me!,
What an interesting anecdote you have relayed to us and we are happy you have finally submitted a query.  We believe a caterpillar must have wandered into your basement and pupated, and the temperate conditions indoors resulted in early eclosion.  This is a Tiger Moth in the genus
Halysidota, and the five species documented on BugGuide are all known as Tussock Moths.  Only two species of the five range as far north as Illinois: the Sycamore Tussock Moth, Halysidota harrisii and the Banded or Pale Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults [of Halysidota tessellaris] in the eastern regions can only be separated from Halysidota harrisii by genitalia dissection.” 

Thank you so much! There is a large mature Sycamore tree close to the basement (and the basement door), so it’s reasonable that it could be either of these moth species. Great site, keep up the good work.  

Letter 33 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Found this on a mimosa tree in my yard. Can’t figure out what it is. Thanks!

Hi Leah,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus Dasychira, possibly Dasychira basiflava, the Yellow-Based Tussock Moth as evidenced by images on BugGuide.

Letter 34 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


catapiller in Wisconsin
Hi, I don’t know very much a bout bugs and things crawly things, but while in Wisconsin this past Labor Day when my sister and I came upon this out-of-this-world looking Catapiller. We were on a path about 100ft from Lake Pepin in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi River. I think it might be a Tussock Moth Caterpillar as seen in the 4th section of your site, but it certainly was fun to look at. My co-wroker here in Schaumburg, IL, Sue, told me about your site and suggested i send you it. By the way, the little guy was about 5 inches long, in case that helps, and Sue is Lisa’s Mom.
John R.

Hi John,
Yes, this is a Tussock Moth, more specifically the White-Marked Tussock moth, Orgyia leucostigma, but five inches long is enormous. Give Sue a big hug for us and tell her we miss her.

Letter 35 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Hi my name is Ron and I have a natural history museum in northern California. I teach kids on the side natural history. Last evening a Montana based friend who was once in my science club, sent me your sight. I want to tell you how much I appreciate it. I looked for three species of caterpillar that I can’t ID on your sight but didn’t see any of them, but sure saw a lot of neat stuff. I would like to list my three with you in hopes of you identifying them. Thank you so much for your service.

Hi Ron,
We are only able to view one of your caterpillars, and it is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus Orgyis, but it doesn’t seem to exactly match any images on BugGuide.

Letter 36 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Whitemarked (Yellow) Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Hi There,
I didn’t see this guy on your site. I came across it on a stinging caterpillar website. I’m glad I didn’t know it could sting when it was on me! I was gentle with it though and had no irritation after photographing it and shooing it away. These pictures were taken along the Brandywine River in PA in Jun 2005.

Hi Sarah,
We actually have many photos of White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillars, Orgyia leucostigma, on our site. We suspect you never checked our five caterpillar pages.

Letter 37 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


What is This!
Dear Bugman,
I just heard about your site and it seems to be a perfect place to receive information on some of the strange creatures I’ve discovered around my home. Towards the end of April I discovered this caterpillar on my deck. It looks like something from Mars. What kind is it?
Bob High
Charlotte, NC

Hi Bob,
This is one of the Tussock Moth Caterpillars in the genus Orgyia, most probably the White Marked Tussock Moth.

Letter 38 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Tussock Moth Caterpillar?
Location: Beales Point, Folsom SRA, Granite Bay, California (in Sacramento County)
May 21, 2013 4:25 pm
Hi, This critter hitched a ride home on a sleeping bag, and my kids want to try to raise it to moth stage, but I don’ t know what he likes to eat. We found him at Beales Point, Folsom Lake State Recreational Area in Granite Bay, California.
Since I didn’t take him off a tree, don’t know what he likes to munch. He is tufted. Has a tail and 2 offshoots at front. Red spots. Fuzzy, black head.
Signature: Cheryl Lilley

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Cheryl,
Yes, this is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Orygia, but we cannot say with certainty which species it is.  You can try browsing BugGuide to try to determine the species and most appropriate food.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Letter 39 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: S. Texas Caterpillar
Location: Corpus Christi, TX
December 19, 2013 6:47 am
For the past two months, I have been finding the caterpillars wandering my property on the ground, on plants, on buildings and nestled in the crevices of my trash cans. They are intriguing with their long groups of white hairs protruding out.
Is this a dangerous caterpillar, or nothing to worry about?
Signature: Tim Weitzel

Possibly Florida Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Possibly Florida Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Tim,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Halysidota, however we don’t believe it is either the Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota tessellaris, or the Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota harrisii, both of which are represented in our archives.  In our opinion, it most closely resembles the Florida Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota cinctipes, which you can view on BugGuide.  Carelessly handling this caterpillar might result in contact dermatitis, however this is not a species that is generally listed among caterpillars with stinging spines or utricating hairs.

Letter 40 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Hi! Found a beautiful caterpillar
Location: Collingswood NJ
July 2, 2014 2:16 pm
Hi bugman. What a neat website! Please, can you tell me what this beautiful caterpillar will turn into?
Signature: Jessica in Philadelphia

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Duh. I found him in your guide. I found this website using my phone so I didn’t see the guide till now. It looks like a white-marked tussock moth. Thanks. Jess.

Hi Jessica,
We are happy you used our website to self identify your Tussock Moth Caterpillar.  We will attempt to search BugGuide to  confirm the identity of this Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Orygia which contains several similar looking species.  Based on this image on BugGuide, we are inclined to agree that you have correctly identified the White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar.

Letter 41 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Caterpillar at Torrance Beach
Location: Torrance Beach, Torrance, CA
April 6, 2015 7:05 am
Hello Bugman,
A few days ago, my kid found this caterpillar crawling on Torrance Beach. He knows about this page and has not stopped asking me to please post a picture of the caterpillar here so we can get help identifying it. The caterpillar was about 1″ long.
Signature: Daniel

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Daniel,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Orgyia, most likely a Western Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Orgyia vetusta, which according to BugGuide is found in Southern California, though several other species in the genus have similar looking caterpillars and they are also found in California.  We are curious what caused this individual to be found on the sand, probably far from a food source, and we are guessing some beach patron inadvertently packed it with the beach umbrella or some other gear kept in the yard by a tree that served as a food source.

Letter 42 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: identify this bug
Location: NC. in our home . Laundry area.
January 25, 2016 11:32 pm
I love this site and plan to help support your effort !
We just moved to this home and it has all kinds of trees everywhere. Other than a few new strange looking friends we love it.
Signature: Lost in the woods !

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Lost in the woods,
This Tussock Moth Caterpillar appears quite dead, and we are guessing that you found the carcass while cleaning your new home.  It might be a Southern Tussock Moth Caterpillar, which according to BugGuide is found in North Carolina.

Letter 43 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Catapillar
Location: Houston tx
April 3, 2016 8:34 am
What is its name
Signature: Bryan

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Bryan,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar, most likely a White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar, also known as the Rusty Vapor Moth.  According to BugGuide:  “Caterpillars are recognized by the bright red head and broad black stripe along the back flanked by a yellow stripe each side. Two red glands on sixth and seventh abdominal segments, and four tufts of hairs (which may be white, gray or yellowish) on the first four abdominal segments are common to several members of the genus.   CAUTION: Contact with hairs may cause an allergic reaction.”

Letter 44 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Unusual Bug
Location: Columbia, SC
October 10, 2016 6:22 am
Students found this bug at school and we would like to identify it.
Signature: L Adair

Whitemarked Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Whitemarked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear L Adair,
This is most likely a Whitemarked Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Orgyia leucostigma, but we would not rule out that it is a different species in a genus that has many similar looking caterpillars.  You should warn any young children to avoid handling Whitemarked Tussock Moth Caterpillars because, according to BugGuide:  “CAUTION: Avoid handling the caterpillar, as its hair is known to cause allergic reactions, especially in areas of the body with sensitive skin (e.g. back, stomach, inner arms). Seek medical treatment if a severe reaction occurs.”

Letter 45 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Browns valley, Ca. Near marysville
Date: 05/11/2019
Time: 06:17 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Last year we found unbelievable amounts of cacoons on surface of everything. Now we have these critters everywhere. What are they, what do they evolve into? Anything poisonous?
How you want your letter signed:  Bret

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Bret,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the genus
Orgyia, but we are not certain of the species as there are several very similar looking species that are found in California.  The adults are sometimes called Vaporers.  BugGuide has images of the adult Vaporers as well as the egg masses.  We have gotten several identification requests in the past few days, so we are posting your submission.  According to Featured Creatures:  “The medical importance of Orgyia species caterpillars is well-documented in the scientific (Diaz 2005, Gilmer 1925, Goldman et al. 1960, Knight 1922) and clinical dermatology (Hossler 2009 & 2010 ) literature. Pruritic (itching) dermatitis due to tussock moth caterpillars has been reported to be a problem at child day-care centers and elementary schools in Florida (Atrubin et al. 2012, Atrubin & Granger 2006, Cruse et al. 2007). Contact with the cocoons produces the same symptoms.
The caterpillars may be contacted when they drop from the host trees or when they wander from the trees in search of a place to spin their cocoons. Home owners develop dermatitis from contact with the cocoons while removing them from the soffits of houses. Hairs in the cocoons retain their urticating capability for up to a year or longer.
Most of the urticating hairs are in the dorsal tussocks of the caterpillars (Knight 1922), but a few are also found on the lateral verrucae and intermingled with the black plume hairs of the hair pencils (Gilmer 1925). Gilmer (1925) conducted histological studies of the urticating setae of Orgyia leucostigma and found that each seta has a venom gland at its base. The venom has not been adequately characterized.”

Letter 46 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Brazil


Subject: caterpillar
Location: sao paulo, brazil
November 29, 2016 5:21 pm
I have found many of this caterpillar all over a bindweed I have at my house’s garden. They are eating the leaves and I have got a burn when I stepped over one of them. I would like to know if it will become a butterfly – and therefore I should let them in peace – or if it is dangerous and I should kill them (in this case, what type of poison I should use).
Signature: Ana Elisa Salles

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Ana Elisa,
This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the subfamily Lymantriinae, and many Tussock Moth Caterpillars have stinging hairs, as you learned.  The adult is a moth, not a butterfly, and we do not provide extermination advice.  Your caterpillar resembles North American Tussock Moths in the genus
Orgyia, but we have not found any images online from Brazil of black Tussock Moth Caterpillars with white tufts. 

Letter 47 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Alaska


Little Yellow Bug with Outriggers – Request for identification
Location: Nenana, Alaska
August 5, 2011 7:06 pm
A coworker found this bug while we were in Nenana, Alaska last week. We are both interested to know what it is, mainly so we can look for additional pictures, details to try tying a fishing fly to match.
Signature: Bill H.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Bill,
This is some species of Tussock Moth Caterpillar, but alas, we have been unsuccessful in determining the species.  You may be able to find additional inspiration for tying flies by searching other species in our Tussock Moth Caterpillar archives.  We suspect this caterpillar is in the tribe Orgyiini, but we were not able to locate a match on BugGuide, perhaps because your individual is an early instar and its appearance will change as it grows.

Letter 48 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Argentina


Subject: Caterpillar from Iguazu Falls
Location: Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side
June 18, 2013 5:18 pm
Hi Bugman!
I’m a preschool teacher who recently went to Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side. While there, I saw 2 bugs. One is the caterpillar below and the other was a spider. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of it. It was black had very skinny legs its body was slightly smaller than a dime and was almost triangle shaped. I saw it crawling on the ground by itself and did not notice any webs around it. I know that is not the best description, but any info would be great as I would love to teach my students about both of these amazing creatures.
Thanks so much for your help!!
Signature: Beth Schultz, Eureka, CA

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Beth,
We don’t know the species, but we believe this is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar because of its resemblance to some North American species in the genus
Orgyia.  Many species have utricating hairs, so they should be handled with caution.  You can see more examples of North American species on BugGuide.  Without a photo, we can’t say much about the spider.

Letter 49 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from California


Subject: Western Tussock Moth Caterpillar?
Location: Jamul, California
February 8, 2013 5:33 pm
I found this last spring (May 20) in the mountains west of San Diego, CA. I think I have successfully found it online, though it’s hard to differentiate between the Douglas Fir Tussock and the Western Tussock. He was crawling along when I scooped him up with an oak leaf, and then he got into a defensive position. The terrain is mountainous, dry, with lots of oak trees. I let him go on his way afterward, of course.
Signature: Ryan

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Ryan,
We got as far as formatting your query for posting, but we cannot do any research until the morning.  Perhaps one of our readers has insomnia and there will magically be a comment in the morning.  We can only commit to agreeing that this is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in a genus that might be spelled

Letter 50 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Ghana


Subject: Identificatoin of forest creature
Location: Volta region, Ghana, West Africa
October 5, 2012 5:08 pm
I just returned from a trip to Ghana. During my stay, I visited a forest in Wli (an area in the Volta region of Ghana). The purpose of my trip to the forest was to visit the waterfall which is located in the centre of the forest. As I was walking through I noticed a creature that I’ve never seen before. I’ve tried to find out more information about this creature online but haven’t been able to. I was wondering if WTB would be able to give me some information on this creature?
Signature: AK

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear AK,
We believe this is some species of Tussock Moth Caterpillar.  It reminds us of the North American White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Orgyia leucostigma.  We could not find images online of any Ghanan relatives that look like your individual.

Letter 51 – Wasp Moth Caterpillar from Guatemala


Location: Mexico
April 4, 2011 2:01 pm
A friend of mine on Facebook snapped this picture of a caterpillar in Mexico. We would appreciate its identification.
Signature: Mark

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Mark,
We believe this is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar, but we do not recognize the species.

Thank you! I looked again and it was more likely taken in Guatemala, not Mexico.

Correction Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Mark:
It does look a lot like a Tussock Moth, but it is actually a ‘Wasp Moth’, Eucereon latifascia, which ranges from Guatemala to Amazonia. I have to confess that I find the current taxonomy of this group very confusing. The Wasp Moths used to be classified as a subfamily of the Tiger Moth family (Arctiidae: Ctenuchinae), which included several tribes. Several classifications are currently in use, but there seems to be a developing consensus that Tiger Moths and Wasp Moths have been demoted and placed within the family Erebidae (Erebidae: Arctiinae: Ctenuchiini). According to the Bugguide the Ctenuchines are now relegated to subtribe status within the tribe Arctiini. Hopefully it will all sort itself out some day. In any event, the Ctenuchines are often referred to as Wasp Moths because as adults many of them mimic wasps or other menacing insects, but E. latifascia, not so much. Regards.  Karl

Thanks for providing this correction Karl.  There is some degree of difficulty when using common names to describe insects and other creatures.  To add to the confusion, some of the Arctiids have caterpillars known as Tussock Moths that are distinctly different from the Tussock Moths in the subfamily Lymantriinae, also in the family Erebidae.  One example is the Milkweed Tussock Moth from North America that is profiled on BugGuide.

Letter 52 – Tussock Moth Caterpillar from Peru


Subject: Moth caterpillar from Peru
Location: Lima, Perú
February 3, 2014 11:50 pm
I found this brown-gray colored caterpillar in my house the other day, and I decided to take some pictures of it because it looked pretty cool. I was almost sure that this was a moth caterpillar (and I’m terribly scared of moths) and I am pretty interested in finding out what specie it is (and how will it look like when it comes back to haunt me)! It is mid-summer here in Lima, Peru and it is the first time I run into this kind of caterpillar.
Signature: Rodrigo Alcorta

Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Rodrigo,
This appears to be a Tussock Moth Caterpillar in the subfamily Lymantriinae.  In our opinion, your fear of moths has no basis in actuality.  Moths do not bite, nor do they sting.  Caterpillars on the other hand often have defense mechanisms, and many possess utricating hairs or stinging spines.  Tussock Moth Caterpillars sometimes have utricating hairs that will cause skin irritation if they are carelessly handled.

Letter 53 – Tussock Moth from Panama


Subject:  Moth Geometry
Geographic location of the bug:  Boquete, Panama
Date: 10/01/2017
Time: 08:29 PM EDT
The markings on this moth look vaguely hieroglyphical.
How you want your letter signed:  Nora

Tussock Moth

Dear Nora,
We are certain this is a Tiger Moth in the subfamily Arctiinae.  We found these images from the genus
Halysidota on the Kirby Wolfe Costa Rica Tiger Moths page, and though they are not exact, they are quite similar.  It really resembles its North American relative the Banded Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris. 

Letter 54 – Two Tussock Moth Caterpillars


Tussock Moth Caterpillars?
While in Maine this August, I snapped some nice photos of what I think are various kinds of tussock moth caterpillars; am I right? Oh, and your site is basically Nirvana.

Definite-marked Tussock Moth Banded Tussock Moth

Hi Again Johanne,
Sorry for the delay, but our internet access was down for a week and mail really piled up. We agree that two of you caterpillars are known as Tussock Moths. The third is possibly, but we are unable to be more conclusive due to the camera angle. The two that are Tussock Moths are from different genera, however. We believe one to be the Definite-marked Tussock Moth, Orgyia definita. Family Lymantriidae. This Family is known as the Tussock Moth Family. The other is probably the Banded Tussock Moth also known as the Pale Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris, which is in the Family Arctiidae, the Tiger Moths.

Letter 55 – Unidentified Moth from Sri Lanka is Tussock Moth


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.

Letter 56 – Vapourer Caterpillar from London


Subject: what is this caterpillar?
Location: London
August 15, 2015 7:53 am
Hi I found this in my garden in London. What type of caterpillar is it and will it become a butterfly or moth?
Signature: n/a

Vapourer Caterpillar
Vapourer Caterpillar

This is a Tussock Moth Caterpillar and we believe it is the Vapourer, Orgyia antiqua, based on this image on UK Moths.

Letter 57 – Wingless Female Tussock Moth Laying Eggs


Egg Laying??
Hi Bugman…this one really has me stumped. Found it in my backyard this morning. Hopefully you can help me out on this one. Thanks
Tom Rook
Brantford, Ont. Canada

Hi Tom,
This is an exciting photo for us since we get so many requests to identify White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillars, Orgyia leucostigma. The female Tussock Moth is flightless and lays a foamy mass of eggs. This image agrees with one posted on BugGuide.

Letter 58 – Yellow Based Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Intimidating Fuzzy Caterpillar
Greetings, again. I wrote a couple of days ago in the hopes of getting your expert opinion on my strange caterpillar. I know you must get hundreds of queries, and I might never hear from you, so I have continued my search for the identification of this little beastie. After using this research project as an effective procrastination device for all the stuff I should be doing, I finally found a couple of other photos of the same creature, one of which places it in the Tussock Moth family (the other of which was just like me—asking for ID). Upon researching Tussock Moths, I am seeing other somewhat similar caterpillars, and many have that same triangular body shape. But, I still cannot find the full answer to the question. I’m not sure why I am obsessed with this — but I’d really like to know what type of Tussock Moth it is, what it eats, what the adult looks like, etc. Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Your site continues to amaze and impress me. Thanks for all your hard work!
Marita Beth
Arlington, TX

Marita Beth’s earlier (ignored but not purposely) email
(04/16/2008) Intimidating Fuzzy Caterpillar
Good Morning, Bugman: I love your website, and have used it numerous times to help identify insects and creepy crawlies that were unusual or foreign to me. This time, I have been unable to find any pertinent information or similar photographs. I am hesitant to write, because I know that if I have in fact simply overlooked the matching photos and accompanying description of my strange caterpillar, I will become yet another victim of your biting, sarcastic wit—which I also love, by the way. But, I guess I’m willing to risk it! 🙂 I have also googled every combination of words that seemed appropriate and come up empty-handed. I have even spent way too much time—this stuff is fascinating!—looking through the photos on BugGuide. Still no luck. This caterpillar, and a second one just like it, were found yesterday, on our back patio, while I was sweeping up the leaves and seeds that had blown onto the concrete. It has been a fairly stormy and windy week here in North Texas, so I suppose these fellas could have come from somewhere farther afield than my own yard. But, since we had a rather horrific spring last year, with tent caterpillars decimating the trees in our area, I am wary, and anxious for a positive ID on these critters. I’ve attached the photo, and below is the link to my daily photo blog, where the same furry fellow is my photo of the day. Thanks for your help!
Marita Beth http://krmb.wordpress.com

Hi Marita Beth,
First we must apologize for not answering your original letter. We are happy to see you have properly identified your caterpillar as a Tussock Moth Caterpillar. We believe it is a Yellow-Based Tussock Moth, Dasychira basiflava, as pictured on BugGuide. Also according to BugGuide, the caterpillar feeds on the leaves of “Larva feeds on oaks, also dogwood, blueberry.” There is a single image of an adult moth also on BugGuide.


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Tags: Tussock Moths

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40 Comments. Leave new

  • We would suggest the tussock caterpillar is Acronicta impleta or something close. Wagner page 328

  • While I’m not an expert, I would be willing to say with 99% certainty that this is a Tussock moth of some sort. Compare to this North American specimen on BugGuide: http://bugguide.net/node/view/147075

  • I think Artemesia is right, it is a Tussock moth (Lymantriidae), probably Dasychira mendosa. For comparison, check the image, second row from the bottom, at:

    Regards. Karl

  • Hello,

    These are not the eggs of a saturniid but rather the rusty tussock moth (Lymantriidae: Orgyia antiqua), which is native to Europe but is now found throughout North America and elsewhere. It is typical of this species and a number of other tussock moths for the eggs to be deposited right on the female’s cocoon, because the females are flightless.

    There is a photo similar to these in my new book, “Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates,” which I think y’all might enjoy. There is some information about it here: http://www.northernnaturalists.com/invert_tracks.html



  • I was just wondering… About a month ago I found a Tussock Moth Caterpillar. I live in Dubai and when I tried to identify its species I had to be sure it is a Tussock moth caterpillar. But reading about its habitat Dubai wouldn’t be its natural environment, they are common in the states and uk?, isn’t it?
    I found it in winter season over here, talking about max 29 degrees C.
    So, what I just wondered if this is special or not to find this moth out here?

  • These are so cool! I saw one in my backyard in Michigan years ago.

  • I’m not that sure, but I think it’s Carales astur.

  • The plural of genus is genera, not genuses.

    • Thanks for catching that grammatical error on this old posting. We have learned much over the years because of our research on What’s That Bug? and if you look at more current postings, you will see that we now use the correct pluralization of the term genus.

  • I live in Northern California and was dewebbing the school when I found 2 of these egg covered cocoons, I have one at my home and the other is still on the school.
    Are these bad for the environment here or should they be removed from the school.

    This the only place I have found this cocoon picture.


    • We would be more inclined to guess you encountered the eggs of a related native species, perhaps a Vapourer. We are more inclined to eliminate invasive species than native species, but it is still possible for native species to create a problem in a home garden, though they generally have predators that help to keep populations in check. We will leave the decision up to you.

  • I live in Northern California and was dewebbing the school when I found 2 of these egg covered cocoons, I have one at my home and the other is still on the school.
    Are these bad for the environment here or should they be removed from the school.

    This the only place I have found this cocoon picture.


  • We are located in Sierra Vista, AZ and this is the second year our Fruitless Mulberry has been “full” of these caterpillars. ID’ing has proved difficult, very glad to have found this post!

  • This caterpillar (by the thousands) has totally defoliated our mulberry tree and our neighbors tree also. It is now in our apple and peach tree! How long does the infestation last? I have never seen this before in Sierra Vista,Az

  • i have a pussy willow and these small caterpillars are striping them of their leaves. they have black heads and green and orange bodies

  • I’m not sure if it the case or if I’m getting mixed up with something else but I think these guys pupate in the soil around the roots of plants so you may need to put some dirt and a small plant of some sort in with it.

    • Hi Trevor,
      That is very interesting. We were not aware that Tussock Moths pupated underground.

  • My kids just discovered something similar on our sunflower plant yesterday. We are living in Singapore too. Hoping we could watch it grow but concerned that our plant might not be sufficient to sustain it. Wondering how it found its way to our hdb!

  • Dogbanes and milkweeds produce a sticky latex that can impede larval feeding. Early instars avoid the veins by skeletonizing the leaves.

  • I found them in my garden too…same pink colour…have photo…market harborough, leicestershire, uk

  • Sitting in the UK and had one show up in a conference room of a building with a garden in the middle of it. It definitely meets the description. The images of the Lobster Moth caterpillar look different from this guy.
    With all the stuff that moves between locations, and the similarities in environment between North America and the UK, it would not surprise me if they found there way between the two over the last 200 years.

  • My friend found orange tussock caterpillar on eggplant. I’m having trouble id’ing it. Any ideas?

  • Are these poisonous? Have a lumpy rash

  • I have been trying to identify these fuzzy caterpillars properly for years as I have two non-fruit bearing mulberry trees that are loaded with these. For several years I just ignored them then finally determined they were the casue of my allergic reactions; sever reactions to even touching where one has been. They got so bad they clogged up my gutters and my roof was covered with them. Sprayed the two trees a year ago and had one summer without them and now they are back. I live in Northern Arizona and would like to know what to use to get rid of them or I will have no choice except to cut the two trees down.

    • We do not provide extermination advice.

    • We are dealing with the same problem! Our non fruit mulberry tree is literally being eaten to death ! These things come by the thousands and I feel like it’s the movie gremlins! As soon as we get rain they multiply! Help !! What can we get to kill them all !

  • I have been trying to find caterpillars and I can,t find one

  • My name is Chase I live in New York Long island and 2 of these exact caterpillars are here, are they supposed to be? I hv photos and videos.

  • Claudia Quintero
    May 2, 2019 7:38 am

    Found one in Texas (about 2 hrs southwest of Houston. It would not leave my cat alone. Everytime she moved it made a beeline for her!
    Thanks for the ID, I thought it was an asp!

  • I have one of these in Texas. Never seen these before.

  • David Gallo
    June 12, 2019 7:07 pm

    They like oak leaves not the thick round ones, but the web looking leaves. I had to try many different leaves but they really chewed up the oak leaves.

  • HELP!!!! We live in Northern Az and have a huge non fruit bearing mulberry tree . I am besides myself on what to do ! These things come by what seems to be billions ! My entire front of the house looks like we painted it black! I’ve tried everything to get rid of them! Each year more and more come! Birds won’t eat them and no poison has worked ! I’ve tried dish soap,garlic,salt,cinnamon,bleach and stuff from Home Depot! They attach to my front door and drop down when you come in or out! Our car windshields covered as well! Please if anyone has suggestions im willing to try anything!

    • I have them as well this summer and I am allergic to them. The trees, non-fruit bearing mulberry are the problem, and the only advice I got here was they do not give advice.

  • Elizabeth Chaney
    October 10, 2019 11:22 am

    Just videoed 1 in Memphis. Scooped it up and put it in my backyard turtle enclosure ?‍♀️

  • Nigel Deighton
    June 21, 2020 1:06 pm

    How are female flightless moths found all over the UK if they can’t fly

  • The hairs of the caterpillars of tussock moths cause skin irritation. Use sticky side of plaster to remove hairs on the skin is recommended.


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