11 October 2009

Our New Pet

Don't worry... Bootypants is still doing just fine...


But now, we've got another furry friend at our house. For at least the past week, this Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia, = Ecpantheria scribonia) caterpillar has been in and around our garage. Giant Leopard Moths are also known as Great Leopard Moths and Eyed Tiger Moths. This species is found in forests throughout the eastern half of the United States and into southern Canada. Giant Leopard Moth larvae overwinter as caterpillars, often hidden under loose bark on a tree, under a log, or in leaf litter. They are polyphagous, meaning that they will eat a variety of food; they are known to feed on oak, willow, banana, orange, cherry, cabbage, dandelion, sunflower, plantain, and violet. They typically stay hidden during the day and feed at night.


At first glance, this caterpillar looks like a large woolly bear caterpillar lacking the brown central section. Its body is mostly black, covered by stiff, black bristles. However, when threatened, the Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar rolls into a ball, exposing red intersegmental rings and spiracles (small openings on the body of the caterpillar that allow air to enter the trachea). This red color warns potential predators that this caterpillar may be poisonous. While its bristles are prickly, this species supposedly does not sting.


While the caterpillar is interesting, take a look at the moth it will become...


This Giant Leopard Moth photograph is from Wikipedia. What a gorgeous moth! With a wingspan of up to 9cm, this is a large moth. We haven't seen this moth on our property, but will definitely watch for them next year.

6 comments:

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

That would be a cool moth to have in the yard :o)

Beth said...

I've never seen either the moth or the caterpillar at our place. I'll watch for it--the moth is beautiful!

I'm still chuckling that you have a dog named Bootypants. Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

Found a Giant Leopard Moth in our yard today, 03-16-2010, did'nt know what it was!!, found a site on the computer, there it was. never seen or heard of one before. Live in west central Wi.

Scott Namestnik said...

Wow... I didn't know they were active this early in the year, especially in Wisconsin. I'll have to watch for them here in northern Indiana.

Thanks for visiting!

Jodi P said...

Just found one of this little giants on the side of my driveway. We are having flurrries so I moved him to the bushes for shelter. Never seen this size caterpillar or the cool moth it will become. We live in central Iowa.

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks for commenting, Jodi. These must be some pretty hardy beasts to withstand our winters. I've still never seen one of these moths, which is somewhat surprising considering how many of the caterpillars I see around our house.