Monday, March 23, 2009

Toothbrush in the Woods?

This little toothbrush with legs is a Banded Tussock Moth (sometimes called Pale Tussock Moth) They are very common in Missouri. The caterpillars are very bristly with extra long hair strands at the head and tail. As adults they are quite lovely. Overall a pale cream or white with faint black zig-zag like lines across both wings. On the back of the thorax there are bluish-green vertical lines with yellow lines in between. The body is hairy and yellow. They typically will be found in hardwood forests, or edges of timbered areas. There are two generations per year in Missouri. These moths are believed to be toxic unlike most other moths, they gain this toxicity from the alkaloids in plants they consume. Adults will regurgitate on decaying plants then lap up the fluids affording them more toxins as a adult. There are various host plants for the caterpillars, including but not limited to Alder, grape, Ash, Hackberry, Hazel, Oak, Hickory, Poplar, Walnut, and Tulip Tree. Look for these moths at porch lights as they often visit lights at night.

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