Deep brown bands and shading have a small pop of brightness with the small white crescents on the bottom of the Definite Tussock Moth.
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.
Scientific Name: Orgyia definita
Other Name(s): Definite-marked Tussock Moth
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 17mm (0.59in to 0.66in)
Colors: brown; black; white
Descriptors: no wings; antennae comb; white crescent marks; dark brown; rounded wings; brown eyespot; flying
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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.