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Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

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.

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

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

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 caterpillars are extremely small and hairy. Their bristles are a light yellow or white in color and will turn grey with black spikes just as the caterpillars go into their second instar stage.

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

 

Early Instar Tussock Moth Caterpillar on Milkweed
Images licensed through:: Nikki Vig

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
Licensed through:: Nikki Vig

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

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

CC-BY-SA-4.0 Photos by Beatriz Moisset

Stage 4 – Adult Moth

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

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


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

Milkweed is an active part of the Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly, it is also just as important to the Tussock Caterpillar and Milkweed Tiger Moths life cycle. Which would be a wonderful reason to collect milkweed seed and plant your own.

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