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.