Hickory Tussock Moth, Lophocampa caryae, #8211

8211 - Lophocampa caryae - Hickory Tussock Moth

Last fall we had a period of a few weeks where we were seeing everywhere little white caterpillars with black running stripes. A bit of research revealed them to be Hickory Tussock Moths, and given the number of caterpillars we saw, I had a feeling that this would be a common species at my lights when they emerged the following year. Sure enough, I’m starting to see quite a number coming in every night. The above is the adult version of those white-and-black caterpillars, a striking tan moth with silvery white spots. A couple moths have this basic theme, but the base colour and the shape and pattern of the spots is different for each.

The Hickory Tussock Moth has an interesting pattern of distribution, from Texas to Nova Scotia but not including the southeast or the northern plains. As the name suggests, the larvae feed on hickories, but they also like maples, oaks, ashes, elms, and other deciduous species. The adults can be locally common, and fly in a relatively narrow window in the spring, May to June.

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4 responses to “Hickory Tussock Moth, Lophocampa caryae, #8211

  1. i found one of these beautiful caterpillers a month or so ago, and i put it into a container so my son could look at it and before i remebered it, it had spun a cocoon, she has since hatched into a beautiful moth as i see above, but i have a dilemma, i want to keep it safe, warm and fed, but i am not sure what i should feed it, it just came out today, and its been too cold out for moths here in Maine, any ideas?? this has been the most info i have found on this little guy. i love animals of all kinds and now i just wanna do whats best for my new hatched friend

  2. Congratulations on the event, Mary, it’s neat to see a caterpillar go through the stages of becoming an adult moth or butterfly. Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do for the new arrival. The adults of most species of moths don’t eat – they don’t even have mouthparts, and for the duration of their adult life they live off of the fat reserves they built up as a caterpillar. In these species, the adult moths will live for only about a week or so, during which their main purpose is simply to seek out a member of the opposite sex and reproduce. I would suggest taking it outside in the afternoon and releasing it, if the temperature is warm enough (45-50 F). Set it in the sun somewhere to warm up. At this time of year you don’t have many options, though, if the weather isn’t cooperating. It may be that it will run the natural course of its short adult life and die in a week or so, and you could keep the dried moth (it won’t decompose or go smelly).

  3. Just so you know, some people can be very allergic to these caterpillars. Our son touched one and was in pain for over a week with a severe allergic reaction which went from little bums, and itching to large black markings that were every painful, for little kids these can be dangerous and if in contact with your eyes or mouth cause lasting damage. Just be careful, and remember most things beautiful in nature are not so friendly!

  4. i have a hickory tussock and it is in a cocoon. I hope that the moth is not as bad as the caterpillar!!!!!

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