Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meet the Western Tussock Moth

We found these cute little caterpillars recently and have been fortunate enough to see their progression into moth hood. They are Western Tussock Moth caterpillars. There are over 2,500 known species of Tussock moth found on earth.

You should handle these little caterpillars with caution as  BugGuide notes:  “Contact with hairs may cause an allergic reaction.”  

Adult moths of this family do not feed. However, Tussock Moth caterpillars are defoliators and "are voracious eaters capable of defoliating entire forests."* Wow, really? Maybe in mass numbers but we found three. 
beginning of metamorphosis ~ pupae just forming

The first stage of their metamorphosis is to become a fuzzy clump. Then within 10 to 18 days (depending on the surrounding temperature) they begin to emerge as a moth.

pupae of moth
Now if you are reading this and starting to shake your head or you are getting all hot under the collar with anger and judgement that we are coexisting with a creature that is eating the surrounding vegetation. Stop and consider a few things. This is an ecosystem. These caterpillars are eating some of the vegetation but they have several predators here too. It is our opinion that the damage the chemicals used to prevent or eradicate these caterpillars, is far more extensive than the damage they are doing. Besides, we are learning and witnessing an amazing metamorphosis, and we only found three.
tiny moth shortly after metamorphosis is complete


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