Thursday, June 4, 2009

Virgin Tiger Moth

These two images are of the "Virgin Tiger Moth" (Grammia virgo). They are found in scattered populations throughout the Eastern and Southern United States. They are a relatively large moth with a wingspan of up to 2 1/2 inches. The fuzzy caterpillar is all black with rusty undersides. There are spiky hairs sticky up all along its body. This caterpillar would be a contender for the racing circuit. I've never seen a caterpillar move as quickly as this one did. In fact it startled me when it first took off, it was a completely unexpected response to being discovered. By the time I recovered and quit laughing at the absurdity of a "fast" caterpillar. I found it several feet away under some dense grasses. After much difficulty I managed to get it out of the grasses and to a place for a photo. The adult is striking in coloration. The upper wings are black and cream patterned, the hindwings are orangish-red or pink in color with black blotches. Thier typical habitat is forested edges, or deciduous woods. They will come to lights at night. Adults sip nectar, and the caterpillar can be reared on a variety of plants, including bedstraw, lettuce, plantains, clover and other low growing vegetation. The female will lay her eggs in clusters on a host plant. The newly hatched caterpillars stick close together until they mature. It is at this point they lead a solitary life and overwinter in a sheltered area. In the spring they become active again (like the one pictured above) and begin feeding. After a couple of weeks they will form a cocoon and later in the spring or early summer they will emerge as an adult. When disturbed the adult can release a chemical from their body, it bubbles out from around their eyes and head. This liquid is made of up of distasteful chemicals gleaned from the foods they consumed as caterpillars. This gives them protection from predation, as they taste bad to a would be predator.


  1. Very cool. I do not have any good moths or butterflies in my yard. Very pretty wing pattern.

  2. Thanks, these are very pretty moths. The caterpillar is what was so cool, that thing crawled like it was taking speed or something. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen out of an insect. Last summer Joey and I put up a mercury vapor light and a white sheet. I have been amazed at how many different species will show up.

    1. i just found one of these guys in the steel warehouse i work at. im located in fargo north dakota it seems it must have traveled on a semi to make here. or something along those lines

  3. I found one of these guys in my yard 2 days ago and I saved it from rain. Yesterday 4/9/16, it started laying eggs all over the leaves and roses in its container. What do I do with those eggs, how do I know if they're fertile, and what do I feed the mom and later on the babies?

  4. I just wonder what the moth eats?