Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Early Instar Tussock Moth Caterpillar on Milkweed

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Today I had to go out and collect a few fresh milkweed leaves for my Monarch caterpillars I am raising. While out hunting I came across the Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar and thought to myself, now here is a critter I have not done a post on that you might find interesting.

Many people are familiar with the multi-striped Monarch caterpillar that feeds on milkweed, but did you ever see the Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar? They also feed on milkweed and are lesser-known species of caterpillars.

Basic Information

Scientific NameEuchaetes egle
Common NameMilkweed Tussock Moth
Feeds OnMilkweed & Donebane Leaves from mid to late summer.
RangeNorth America – Southern Canada & south through Texas & Florida (Wagner 2005).
Size To up 35mm
Four Stages Of Growth2 insta growth stages, a pupa stage, and finally the moth.
PredatorsDowny woodpeckers, Gray catbirds, Common grackles, Red-breasted nuthatch, wasps, assassin bugs
Can Cause Skin RashWhen the hairs of caterpillar come in contact with human skin they can cause an irritating rash.

4 Stages of Growth of the Caterpillar

The caterpillars go through 4 different stages of growth. Two insta growth stages, a pupa stage, and finally the moth.

Stage 1 – Early Instar Stage

Early Instar Tussock Moth Caterpillar on Milkweed

Stage one is called the early instar stage. During this stage, the caterpillar larva will hatch from their eggs and start feeding on the plants.

  • The larva starts out in large groups. 
  • Early instars appear slightly ‘hairy’ and gray, white, or yellow. 
  • The larva has extremely healthy appetites and will skeletonize entire plants.

Stage 2 – Late Instar Stage

  • Size: To up 35mm
  • Host Plants: Commonly seen eating milkweed and dogbane from mid to late summer.
  • Range: From southern Canada, and south through Texas and Florida in North America

The above caterpillar is in the late instar stage, just before the caterpillar goes into the pupa stage. It has black, white and orange bristles. The orange bristles that run along its back can look a yellowish color as well.

Stage 3 – Pupa

CC-BY-SA-4.0 Photos by Beatriz Moisset

During the pupa stage, The instar will use the pupa over winter to change into a moth.

Stage 4 – Adult Moth

Tussock Moth Caterpillar Turns Into Milkweed Tiger Moth
Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) [CC BY-SA 2.5 }
  • Eggs: The moth will deposit groups of eggs on the underside of milkweed and dogbane.

From the eggs hatch the instars that eat and go through stages 1 & 2 above. Instars live in pupa overwinter in the Midwest. In the spring the moth emerges and they lay eggs to start the cycle again.

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