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Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Giant Leopard Moth



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Image Credit: Cody B. from Houston, TX
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Sharon P. from Bound Brook, NJ
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Image Credit: Joanna M. from Goshen, IN
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Image Credit: Jerry C. from Thomasville, NC
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Cody B. from Houston, TX
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Image Credit: Cody B. from Houston, TX
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Image Credit: Jana G. from TX
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Image Credit: Cody B. from Houston, TX
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Image Credit: Jana G. from TX
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Image Credit: Warren S., taken in Mohican State Park, OH
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Image Credit: Joe V. from AR
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The rings and spots of the Giant Leopard Moth distract from its boldly patterned, robust body.



Updated: 11/30/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
This white tiger moth has distinct black rings as well as black spots, similar to those seen in leopards, all over its white wings. The Giant Leopard Moth can grow to enormous sizes compared to other moths, fitting comfortably in the palm of an adult's hand. Males are almost two times larger than females. The body is an iridescent blue-black with reddish-orange bands and side stripes. Legs are covered in black and white bands. As a defense against predators, they release a foul-tasting, yellow fluid when they are frightened. Like most moths, they are nocturnal and are attracted to lights at night.

During mating, a male covers part of the female with his wings. Mating takes many hours so the male may lift and carry the female throughout the session to warmer or cooler areas. The caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth has a black body with red bands that are revealed when it stretches. The entire thing is covered in clusters of long, black spiky hairs. It is commonly called a 'woollybear'. This caterpillar is an exception to the 'Don't touch spiky caterpillars' rule. The hairs do not sting and the caterpillar does not bite, so it is safe to gently handle. They often curl up when touched. These larvae eat from a wide variety of trees ranging from willow, maple, and magnolia to cherry, lemon, orange and banana. They also eat smaller plants like pokeweed, sunflowers, violets, cabbage, and dandelion.

Typical habitats for this moth include woodland edges, fields or meadows, gardens, and orchards/groves. Thanks to the caterpillar's varied diet, they are comfortable in both developed and wild areas, improving everyone's chances of seeing one. They are on the wing from April through September.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Hypercompe
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            Species: scribonia
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Hypercompe scribonia
Other Name(s): Eyed Tiger Moth, Great Leopard Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 57mm to 91mm (2.24" to 3.58")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; white; orange; red
Descriptors: flying, spotted, rings, dots, spots, large, red belly
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 57mm and 91mm
Lo: 57mm
Md: 74mm
Hi: 91mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Giant Leopard Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Giant Leopard Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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