Despite the name, this species is not a Tussock moth, but a Tiger moth, so that woolly caterpillar does not sting.
Tiger moths produce caterpillars that are densely covered in hairs and are commonly called woolly bear caterpillars. The Spotted Tussock Moth larva is a woolly bear caterpillar, but it also has black mounds and long white lashes more typically seen in Tussock moths. Tussock caterpillars sting. This Tiger caterpillar does not. Though it has many appearances as it matures, the most popular stage has black hairs at the head and rear end are split by a yellow or red-orange band of hairs in the middle of the body. Black tussocks, or dome-like tufts of hairs develop along the 'spine', and it is why 'tussock' is used in the common name. The younger caterpillar is frosty white or a shade of yellow with long white lashes. Orange and black dots of color run down the back. Another variation is completely orange with a row of black tussocks on the 'spine'.
Moths are most active from spring through summer. These winged adults are brown with tan spots on the forewings. They are often seen in deciduous forests where trees like poplar and willow act as hosts for the growing caterpillars. They also feed on maple, oak, and basswood leaves. Look for them from mid-summer to autumn.
Scientific Name: Lophocampa maculata
Other Name(s): Yellow-spotted Tiger Moth; Mottled Tiger Moth
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 28mm (0.78in to 1.09in)
Colors: brown; tan
Descriptors: light spots; patches; pointy wings; brown marks; flying
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.