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Sycamore Tussock Moth (Halysidota harrisii)


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

 Updated: 8/16/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The Sycamore Tussock Moth lives on and eats off of its namesake tree, sometimes to the point of destroying them.



Sycamore Tussock Moths can be found on sycamore trees and London plane trees. They are pale brown with alternating bands of tan and brown across the forewings. The hairy thorax has lines of white, blue and yellow hairs running down the center. This species looks identical to the Banded Tussock Moth of the same genus and only an anatomical inspection can really differentiate the two. Because it is impossible to check this via a photograph, on this website, the photos attributed to this moth are also placed on the Banded Tussock Moth.

Observers are more likely to find the caterpillars on the host trees, or possibly dangling from them by a fine strand, almost dancing their way to the ground. Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillars grow to be about 25-35mm long. They are covered in white hairs and have orange heads. Four orange tufts (pencils) of long bristles extend upward behind the head. Four more white tufts (pencils) of long bristles are next to them. Two white pencils of long hairs extend out by the rear end. Though they are not reported to sting, this caterpillar has caused irritation on human skin, so handling them is not advised. Use a stick or paper to remove them from areas where they are not wanted. There are two to three generations each year.

Females lay fertilized eggs on the tree's bark or branches. The emerging caterpillars proceed to eat away at the leaves and soft plant tissue. In large numbers, annual substantial damage to the tree can kill it over time. After 30-40 days, the caterpillars form cocoons and will emerge as adults about two weeks later. An exception to that timeline is the generation of caterpillars pupating before winter comes. These caterpillars remain in their cocoons all season long, protecting them from the elements. They emerge as flying adults the next spring and will parent the first generation of that year.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Arctiidae
          Genus: Halysidota
            Species: harrisii
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Halysidota harrisii
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 50mm (0.98in to 1.95in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: ivory, yellow, black, brown, orange
Descriptors: spotted, flying, spiky, hairy, furry, striped, spotted, band, hanging, dropping, dancing
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
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. 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
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 as sensors.
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.
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Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
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Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
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Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.