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Walnut Caterpillar Moth (Datana intergerrima)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Walnut Caterpillar Moth

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The timing for Walnut Caterpillar Moth reproduction affords some protection for popular nut trees.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Walnut Caterpillar Moths are a rich brown color with 3 pale lines crossing the wings. When viewed from above, the pale lines's curves resemble ripples. Hindwings are rounded and ivory in color. The furry thorax has a dark, reddish brown crown. The puffy nature of the thorax almost overtakes the head like a giant collar. The moth is on the wing from April through autumn.

The caterpillar for this species gets more attention than the adult. The black caterpillar has a black head and is covered in long, wispy, white hairs. Depending on its maturity, the body may be red, with thin white lines. They are often seen on tree branches in large congregations, crawling over each other and surrounded by caterpillar silk. The overall appearance may take the shape of a white, fuzzy ball. The web-like silk ball and clustering behavior resembles the kind seen in webworms, but that is a different kind of caterpillar. Walnut Caterpillars do not sting and do not bite. They may wiggle with their heads raised in an attempt to scare off a predator, but they lack an irritating defense typically seen in many other hairy caterpillars.

Bare patches in a leafy tree are signs of caterpillar feeding. As the name suggests, Walnut Caterpillars eat the leaves of walnut trees. They also eat from pecan, butternut, and hickory trees. While many caterpillars on one tree can defoliate it at an alarming rate, they usually feast in autumn, when trees are fortunately in the stages of storing energy and not making it through their leaves. This means that the impact of the feeding is less harmful, especially for nut production, than if this species were to start feeding in early spring. In warmer parts of its range, three broods can be produced in one year. The earlier in the season the caterpillars feed, the more harmful it is to the tree's health and ability to produce nuts. Parasitic insects and predators naturally control the caterpillar, but insecticide use and manual removal of caterpillars also reduces the likelihood of annual outbreaks.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Notodontidae
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          Genus: Datana
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            Species: intergerrima

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Datana intergerrima
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 21mm to 28mm (0.82" to 1.10")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; white; ivory
Descriptors: white stripes; dark brown head; flat head; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 21mm (0.8in) and 28mm (1.1in)
Lo: 21mm
Md: 24.5mm
Hi: 28mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Walnut Caterpillar 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 Walnut Caterpillar Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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