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  • White-Marked Tussock Moth - (Orgyia leucostigma)

    White-Marked Tussock Moth - (Orgyia leucostigma)

    The caterpillar for the White-Marked Tussock Moth is unlike any other, but be sure to look and not touch.

    Staff Writer (8/2/2017): The long, spiky tufts of hairs give fair warning to anyone or anything that tries to touch this species' larva. The caterpillar is covered with them and the chemicals that are transferred onto skin when touched can cause an allergic reaction in humans resulting in redness, irritation and welts. Pruritic dermatitis (itching) is commonly seen in small children who come into contact with it, or its cocoon, on the playground. It also has four tight tufts of yellowish-white hairs that look like 'pom poms' on its dorsal side near the bright red head. These hairs are barbed, making them difficult to remove from skin. Two clusters of long black quills extend from either side of the head. Beneath the array of black and white hairs is a yellow-and-black striped body that ends in another cluster of long brownish-black hairs at the tip of the abdomen.

    By comparison, the adult form seems dull. Adults, however, do have remarkable feathery antennae and tufts of hair on their legs. They are on the wing year-round in warmer regions. Adults and larvae can be found in forested areas. Both deciduous and evergreen trees are host plants. In northern areas, this species has caused damage on Christmas tree farms.

    Females are flightless and stay near their own empty cocoons. Eggs are laid on it and covered with a secretion to protect them. Shortly after doing this, the female moth dies. The eggs overwinter and caterpillars emerge in the spring. After growing, the spiky caterpillar weaves a white cocoon around itself that resembles a white ball of laundry lint with some long black hairs woven throughout it. After pupating for a couple of weeks, the adult emerges.

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    Details of the:
    White-Marked Tussock Moth

    Category: Butterfly or Moth
    Common name: White-Marked Tussock Moth
    Scientific Name: Orgyia leucostigma

      Kingdom: Animalia
       Phylum: Arthropoda
        Class: Insecta
         Order: Lepidoptera
          Family: Erebidae
           Genus: Orgyia
            Species: leucostigma

    Size (Adult, Length): 12mm to 35mm (0.47in to 1.38in)

    Identifying Colors: white, black, orange, gray, brown

    Additional Descriptors: spiky, hairy, feather, flying, bumps

    North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri;New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Mexico

    * Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.

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