Sometimes a bit of youthful color spills over into adulthood as is the case with the Milkweed Tussock Moth.
One of many insects that live, love, and eat on the Milkweed plant, the native Milkweed Tussock Moth spends its whole life in one species of vegetation. Like its counterparts, the Milkweed Tussock Moth does sport some bright, alarming colors like red, black and orange. This serves as a fair warning to would-be predators that the insect is not good to eat. The Milkweed plant sap holds a toxic chemical called cardenolide that accumlates in the body of whatever eats it. Monarch butterflies, this moth and the Milkweed bug are prime examples of this.
Adults are active from late spring to early autumn. Their wings are a drab gray color, but their bright yellow bodies are marked with rows of black spots on the sides. Females lay fertilized eggs in clusters on milkweed leaves. Newly hatched caterpillars begin as yellowish tubes with tiny black heads and are covered in white wispy hairs. They immediately begin chewing up milkweed leaves, leaving the veins behind. As caterpillars progress through their instars, colorful character takes over. The simple white hairs grow longer and the caterpillar gets covered in a mostly black coat. This is accented with bright orange-red hairs that almost form rings around each segment. Sets of long, white lashes project out of the head and rear. They are voracious eaters at every stage and can skeletonize a milkweed plant if decent numbers of them are present. Two broods can be produced in one year.
Look for Milkweed Tussock Moths anywhere milkweed grows. This includes parks, gardens, roadsides, fields, and meadows.
Scientific Name: Euchaetes egle
Other Name(s): Milkweed Tiger Moth
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 22mm to 43mm (0.86in to 1.68in)
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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.