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Ranchman's Tiger Moth (Platyprepia virginalis)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Ranchman's Tiger Moth

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Image Credit: Jon M. from Salmon Arm, BC
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Image Credit: Bob E. from Celista, BC
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The large, boldly patterned Ranchman's Tiger Moth is at home in the west, where it lives a life still filled with some mystery.

Updated: 07/09/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Deep black wings on the Ranchman's Tiger Moth are covered with large, round-shaped, pale yellow spots. It has an orange-red face and body. The abdomen is plump and has black bars on it that are only visible when the wings are spread open. A single orange-red dot sits below the thorax, peeking out between the two wings. This moth can get large, and despite its intriguing appearance, it is not as recognized as other Tiger Moths.

Little is known about what plants the caterpillar prefers to eat. There is no certain evidence that the moth is even plant-specific. The caterpillar is easy to recognize, however, so finding one on an herbaceous plant may mean it is using it as a food source. The head and rear end of the caterpillar is covered in spiky tufts of orange-red hairs. The middle part of the caterpillar is black and has long white hairs growing from it. Females lay clutches of round, pale yellow-green eggs.

The adult moth is typically seen in flight from late spring into summer, but more study about its life history would help illuminate details about its diet and courtship behaviors. In the meantime, it remains a striking example of the diverse colors seen in the Tiger Moth family.

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: Platyprepia
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            Species: virginalis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Platyprepia virginalis
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 40mm to 50mm (1.57" to 1.96")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, yellow, red, orange, white
Descriptors: yellow dots, orange red face, large, flying

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 40mm (1.6in) and 50mm (2.0in)
Lo: 40mm
Md: 45mm
Hi: 50mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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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 Ranchman's 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 Ranchman's Tiger Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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