The large, hairy Buck Moth is an impressive sight to behold, but its stinging caterpillar offspring should always be avoided.
Members of the Giant Silkworm and Royal Moth family, the wingspan of a Buck Moth is quite wide. The top side of each richly black wing is lined with a thick white line. On the forewings, this white line is interrupted by a yellow crescent shaped dash surrounded in black and resembles a closed eyespot. On the underside of the forewings, this yellow crescent is placed inside the thick white band. The furry thorax region is black with a white band by the head and two red spots near the joint for the wings. Black legs have furry cuffs of red on the upper parts. The thick abdomen is black and covered in fine white hairs, ending in a plume of red-orange hairs at the tail end in males, and black hairs in females.
The caterpillar of the Buck Moth is notorious for its painful stings. The body varies in overall color and may be black or reddish overall. It may be covered in white specks, too. All individuals have sharp bristles projecting from the entire body. These stinging hairs cause redness, itching, irritation, and pain. Buck Moth larvae feed on the leaves of one of the continent's most ubiquitous trees: oak.
Look for the Buck Moth's round white eggs clustered together around a branch forming a cuff or ring. The newly hatched larvae will stay together for a time, feeding in a group, but eventually venture off on their own. They move to the ground to pupate and may remain there for one to two years until they emerge as adults. Adults lack fully developed mouth parts and spend their time trying to reproduce instead of eating. Look for adults and caterpillars in areas where oak trees grow, both wild in forests and in more developed areas like neighborhoods and parks. Remember to avoid touching the spiky caterpillar.
Scientific Name: Hemileuca maia
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 75mm (1.95in to 2.93in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.