Not quite entomology

 

Wooly Bear (Tiger Moth Caterpillar) & Family

Steven H. McGarthwaite - Aug 12, 2013

There is the Woolly Worm and there is the Woolly Bugger, but there is also the Woolly Bear. Just as the Woolly Worm and Woolly Bugger are terrestrial so is the Woolly Bear and Family.

Woolly Bear is a Tiger Moth Caterpillar that is found in a wide band across the North American continent, along with its five cousins in the Tiger Moth family "Arctiidae".

Tiger Moth Caterpillars sometimes for whatever reason or circumstance; end up in our lakes, river and streams, the same as all other terrestrials.

Wooly Bear and family
Yellow Bear
Wooly Bear and family
Woolly Bear
Wooly Bear and family
Giant Leopard Moth
Wooly Bear and family
Pale Tussock Moth
Wooly Bear and family
HickoryTussock Moth
Wooly Bear and family
Spotted Tussock Moth

Woolly Bears can be found on roadways and sidewalks in the autumn, having left their food plants in search of a dark sheltered spot where they can hibernate during the winter months.  In the spring the caterpillars again become active, feeding for a short period, before building a cocoon out of silk. They emerge as Tiger Moths two or three weeks later.

Some members of the Arctiica spin cocoons in the early autumn, and lay their eggs in the foliage debris on the ground.

Some of the Arctiica can spend several years as caterpillars before building cocoons and emerging as Tiger Moths, climbing up tree trunks and finding shelter it gaps in the trees bark. They have built-in antifreeze and freeze solid over the winter months then thaw out in the spring. Some of the species only have one generation each year, while other have multi-generations.

Some of these Woolly Bear (Tiger Moth) Caterpillars have as defense a secretion that can cause a rash on any individual that picks one up.

Members of the Tiger Moth Family:

Wooly Bear and family
Yellow Bear (Virginian Tiger Caterpillar): Spilosoma virginica

Yellow woolly bear or fuzzy bear caterpillars can be found throughout the entire United States northward into southern Canada and southward into eastern Mexico. Often found in the fall after they have left their food plants in search of a dark and sheltered spot where they can hibernate as larvae for the winter. When spring brings its warm sunshine, the yellow bear caterpillars again become active, feeding for a brief time and then fashioning cocoons out of silk and body hairs. They emerge from cocoons two to three weeks later.

Wooly Bear and family
Yellow Bear-Virginian Tiger Moth: Spilosoma virginica

Wooly Bear and family
Woolly Bear - Isabella Tiger Caterpillar: Pyrrharctia isabella

Banded Woolly Bear/Fuzzy Bear - Virginia Tiger Moth, can be found eastern three quarter of the United States and along the Canadian Border, there are two or three generations each year of this species.


Wooly Bear and family
Isabella Tiger moth: Pyrrharctia isabella

Wooly Bear and family
Giant Leopard Caterpillar: Ecpantheria scribonia

The Giant Leopard can be found Eastern Half of the United States and along the Canadian Border.

Ecpantheria scribonia caterpillars, have dense coat with coarse black hairs of equal lengths, they curl up in a ball when disturbed, revealing bright red intersegmental rings. The small circles surrounding the spiracles are also red.


They feed on a variety of food plants including forest trees, shrubs and low growing plants. Hibernation is usually over in northern portions of scribonia's range in May. The caterpillars feed briefly, spin their cocoons and then emerge a few weeks later as adult moths.

After dark, the female moth extends a scent gland from the tip of her abdomen. Night-flying males zigzag in their flights into the wind, pick up the airborne scent with their antennae, and locate and mate with the calling female.

Upon separating, the male looks for another mate while the female begins her ovipositing flight under cover of darkness. Eggs are widely dispersed on a variety of hosts.

Wooly Bear and family
Giant Leopard Moth: Ecpantheria scribonia

Wooly Bear and family
Pale Tussock Caterpillar: Halysidota Tsiaris

Pale Tussock, Halysidota Tsiaris can be found in the Eastern Half of the United States, Canadian Border and Mexico.

Pale Tussock caterpillars are often found in the fall when their larger size and bright coloration draw attention. Halysidota tsiaris caterpillars are covered with a dull grey, tan or yellow- brown colored hair and have long paired black and white lashes emanating from the second and third thoracic segments, and a third set projecting from the eighth abdominal segment. Cocoons, spun up in the fall, often incorporate some of the body hairs.

Pale Tussock Tiger Moths emerge from cocoons the following spring. The under-wings are a plain, pale yellow and the moths generally resemble the image of Lophocampa maculata but coloration is much paler. Wings almost look like they are coated with thin wax layer rather than normal moth wing scales.

Wooly Bear and family
Pale Tussock Moth: Halysidota Tsiaris

Wooly Bear and family
Hickory Tussock Caterpillar: Lophocampa caryae

The Hickory Tussock can be found from Mexico and the southwestern United States in a diagonal swathe northeastward to Maine and southern portions of the central and eastern Canada

Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars are often found in the fall when their larger size and bright coloration draw attention.


Lophocampa caryae caterpillars are white and black and are covered in grayish-white hairs. A row of black tufts adorn the first eight abdominal segments and pairs of long black hair-tufts grace the first and seventh segments.

Lophocampa caryae caterpillars feed gregariously on the leaves of several hardwoods, but hickories, walnut and butternut are preferred. Gray cocoons, spun up in the fall under leaf litter, often incorporate some of the body hairs.

Caryae Tiger Moths emerge from cocoons the following spring, usually in May and June. The under wings are a plain, pale yellow.

Wooly Bear and family
The Hickory Tussock Moth: Lophocampa caryae


Wooly Bear and family
Spotted Tussock Caterpillar: Lophocampa maculata

The Spotted Tussock ranges across the Canada U.S. border from Maine through Montana. They are also found in the Maritime Provinces.

Lophocampa maculata caterpillars are densely coated with yellow and black setae (hairs). On the move, maculata caterpillars motor quite rapidly. There are longer, white colored setae projecting as lashes from clusters of the darker setae, especially near the small black head and from the posterior.

The Spotted tussock moth caterpillars feed on a variety of food plants including forest trees such as willows, red maples and poplars.

There is but a single generation each year with moths enclosing in the spring. After nightfall, the female moth extends a scent gland from the tip of her abdomen. Night-flying males zigzag in their flights into the wind, pick up the airborne scent with their antennae, and locate and mate with the calling female.


Wooly Bear and family
The Spotted Tussock Moth: Lophocampa maculata

Reference Source:

I wish to thank Bill Oehlke oehlkew@islandtelecom.com for permission for the use of photos and information found on http://www3.islandtelecom.com/~oehlkew/indexarc.htm  , regarding the various Tiger Moth Caterpillar's that comprise the Woolly Bear Caterpillar found group in the United States an

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