Woolly Bear: Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

Subject: Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar?
Location: Coryell County, TX
September 2, 2014 10:47 am
Hello again,
I’ve seen several of these caterpillars this summer. This one fell onto the sidewalk when I moved our garden-hose reel last night. It uncurled after a few minutes and moved off into the garden. I was unable to get a good photo of its face. I thought it was wet, but I think the bristles are just very shiny. Fascinating and really beautiful.
I think the chrysalis husk on the front porch is from the same type of caterpillar, perhaps.
Last year you kindly identified an adult Giant Leopard Moth for me. Although I haven’t seen any moths this year, could these be the caterpillars and perhaps an empty chrysalis of the moth?
Thank you so much.
Signature: Ellen

Woolly Bear:  Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
Woolly Bear: Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

Hi Ellen,
You are correct.  This is the Caterpillar of a Giant Leopard Moth,
Hypercompe scribonia.  Tiger Moth Caterpillars that have this generally appearance covered with hairs are called Woolly Bears.  According to BugGuide:  “The caterpillar is mostly black with tufts of stiff black hairs of equal length radiating around its body. Rolls up head to tail when disturbed. When curled, red intersegmental rings are visible between the hairs. Spiracles are orange or red. Early instars also have the hairy tufts, but are colored dark brown and orange.”  BugGuide also states:  “Spends the winter as a caterpillar (Caterpillars of Eastern Forests(2) says it overwinters August to May – presumably this varies by location). One generation per year in the north; sometimes two generations in the south.”

Woolly Bear
Woolly Bear

Woolly Bears incorporate the hairs into the spinning of the cocoon that holds the pupa.  Chrysalis is a term that is reserved for the pupa of a butterfly.  The Giant Leopard Moth is also known as the Eyed Tiger Moth.

Cocoon of an emerged Giant Leopard Moth.
Cocoon of an emerged Giant Leopard Moth.

Subject: Possible Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar, Part II
Location: Coryell County, Texas
September 2, 2014 8:59 pm
I turned on the porch light tonight at 10 PM Central Standard Time, and there was the possible Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar again, stretched out on the porch’s concrete. The caterpillar started moving quickly away from the light. I had no idea they could move so fast! It crawled onto the garden soil, stopped, and crawled back onto the concrete, halting when it reached a more shadowed spot. Then it stayed perfectly still, front slightly raised. It was over two inches long when it was moving.
Here are a few more photos of the caterpillar and the empty chrysalis shell.
Thank you, and take care!
Signature: Ellen

Empty Cocoon of a Giant Leopard Moth
Empty Cocoon of a Giant Leopard Moth

Thanks for the additional images Ellen.




1 thought on “Woolly Bear: Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar”

  1. Thank you so much! I’ll have to remember the term “cocoon” for moths. I appreciate all of your help and information.
    I’ll keep checking the window screens and porch lights for a couple of months to see if I can spot any adult moths. I believe that the one I saw last year was in October, although our weather has been cooler than usual this summer (as in “not as blazing hot”), and fall weather may be early this year, cutting the growing season short.
    Thank you again! ~ Ellen


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