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Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

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.

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

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.

Scientific Name: Euchaetes egle

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

Late instar of Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

How To Identify

Eggs:  The moth will deposit groups of eggs on the underside of milkweed and dogbane.

Larva: The larva start out in large groups.  Early instars appear slightly ‘hairy’ and gray.  The larva have extremely healthy appetites and will skeletonize entire plants. 

Skeletonized milkweed leaves

I often find the Tussock Moth on milkweed, in the grass, on seed heads and the flowers of the goldenrod.

In the north there is only one generation per year, two or more in the south.

Late Instar – The caterpillars in different life stages are called instars.  The late instar just before the caterpillar goes into the pupa stage has black, white and orange bristles.  The orange bristles that run along its back can look a yellowish color as well.

On the plant leaf below you will see both early and late instars feeding.

Early instar caterpillars are small, hairy & grey

Pupa:  The instar will use the pupa over winter to change into a moth..

Adult Moth: The instar caterpillar will turn into the moth as seen in the picture below.

Lifecycle of the Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar. From caterpillar to moth.

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Photo credits: Moth: Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) [CC BY-SA 2.5 } Pupa: CC-BY-SA-4.0 Photo by Beatriz Moisset and Caterpillars: Copyright Nikki Vig.

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