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White-Marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma)


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

 Updated: 6/27/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




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



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.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
          Genus: Orgyia
            Species: leucostigma
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Orgyia leucostigma
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 12mm to 35mm (0.47in to 1.37in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white, black, orange, gray, brown
Descriptors: spiky, hairy, feather, flying, bumps
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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State of Delware graphic
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Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
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Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


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.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.