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Definite Tussock Moth (Orgyia definita)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Definite Tussock Moth.




Deep brown bands and shading have a small pop of brightness with the small white crescents on the bottom of the Definite Tussock Moth.



 Updated: 1/16/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The adult may be a lovely, chocolate brown moth, but the hairy yellow and black caterpillar is an unwelcome visitor. The bright colors of the slender larva make it easy to notice, but those hairs have are capable of irritating skin when touched, like many other Tussock caterpillars. Even with gloved hands, the fine hairs can fall out and cause irritation on uncovered arms. Brooms are handy for sweeping them off of a porch. These same hairs are used to create a protective case around the caterpillar while it pupates. Look for and carefully remove cocoons from walls, taking care not to let the hairs get airborne and land on exposed skin or eyes. Take care walking under trees that have them as they may fall down. Take time to recognize the caterpillar and teach young children to refrain from trying to pet them. Long, bright yellow hairs cover a black body. The head may be yellow or brown. Four tufts of densely-packed hairs form bumps by the head. These bumps may be yellow or orange. Long, black lashes by the head stick out like antennae. Long brown hairs stick out by the rear end, almost like a tail. Very fine, extremely long white hairs protrude from the entire caterpillar and stretch out in every direction, so do not come close to touching the body or these hairs can cause redness and irritation.

The feeding activity on oak trees does not do significant harm to the tree, but younger trees and shrubs may suffer from defoliation by this caterpillar. Other popular trees like maple, ash, elm, willow, and cherry are also suitable hosts. Activity for caterpillars is in springtime.


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Rounded insect body icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae [ View More ]
          Genus: Orgyia [ View More ]
            Species: definita
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Descriptors
Scientific Name: Orgyia definita
Other Name(s): Definite-marked Tussock Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 17mm (0.59in to 0.66in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black; white
Descriptors: no wings; antennae comb; white crescent marks; dark brown; rounded wings; brown eyespot; flying
Relative Size Comparison
Lo: 15mm | Hi: 17mm
Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
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.
Territorial Map
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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State of New Mexico graphic
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State of Tennessee graphic
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State of Utah graphic
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State of Washington graphic
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State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used for sensing.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.