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Great Tiger Moth (Arctia caja)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Great Tiger Moth

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Image Credit: Michelle V. from Ontario, Canada
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Image Credit: Troy D.
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Image Credit: Georgiana H. from Rifle, CO
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Image Credit: Troy D. taken in ME
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Image Credit: Steve K., taken in Walden, CO
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The Great Tiger Moth is large, boldly patterned and more closely resembles a giraffe than its namesake.

Updated: 10/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
One would never expect a moth with the name Tiger to have colors and a pattern more like a giraffe's. Because of its large size, it is Great. Because the Great Tiger Moth is a member of the Tiger moth family, which has loads of brightly patterned and colorful members, it is also called a Tiger. The Great Tiger Moth is very cold hardy and widespread in Canada as well as the bordering U.S. states, seldom venturing south of the Great Lakes region or New England.

Their larvae (caterpillars) are quite dull by comparison to the adult form. Caterpillar underbellies are a rich chestnut brown with spiky hairs, while their dorsal (back) side is a charcoal gray-black, covered with long, thin bristles or hairs. They feed on a wide variety of plant leaves from weeds, shrubs, and trees. After a summer of feeding, they will hibernate over winter.

Both adults and larvae can be found in arboreal forests. Adult moths are attracted to lights at night, so they may also be seen in backyards, parking lots and other areas with artificial lighting. They are a medium-sized moth and can be handled with care.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Arctia
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            Species: caja

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Arctia caja
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 70mm (1.96" to 2.75")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white; orange; blue; black
Descriptors: flying; leopard; giraffe; colorful; furry; hairy; large

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 50mm (2.0in) and 70mm (2.8in)
Lo: 50mm
Md: 60mm
Hi: 70mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Great Tiger 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 Great Tiger Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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