Home / Saturniidae Moth (Saturniidae) / Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia)

Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia)

Buck Moth
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Buck moth of the Saturniidae family inhabits the oak forests encompassing a wide range from Florida in the southeast to New England in the northeast and then Texas and Kansas in the western belt. People refer to them as ‘buck’ because these moths are mostly spotted flying in the daytime during the deer season.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Saturniidae
  • Genus: Hemileuca
  • Scientific Name: Hemileuca maia

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Buck Moth Caterpillar
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Buck Moth Larvae
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The larvae, particularly the older ones, appear black and spiny, with white spots covering their body. They have bumpy spines arranged throughout their body in several rows, with those on top being a little longer. These spines remain connected to a poisonous sac, leading to burning, itching, and even nausea if the larva stings. The buck moth larva grows to about 6.35 cm long.

Pupa

The larva pupates in the loose soil or leaf litter, and the adult moths emerge between September and December.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

The males have a smaller body and wingspan than the females.

Color and Appearance

Forewings: When opened, it appears black with a white band going through the middle. One striking feature is the small kidney-shaped spot bordered in black, lying close to the forewing’s outer part on both sides.  When closed, the black and white pattern remains the same, and the spot on only one of the sides can be seen.

Hindwings: When opened, the color is similar to the forewings, with the additional inclusion being the blackish disc-like spot situated inside the white band.  When closed, there is no change in the color, but for the fact that the small spot may not be prominently visible.

Hemileuca maia
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Both the male and the female have an all-black body except the red patch that the former has on their abdominal tip.

Average Wingspan: 5.08 – 7.62 cm

Flight Pattern: Consistent

Season: November – December

Eggs

Buck Moth Eggs
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The white, round eggs are mostly laid roundly on the oak twigs.

Quick Facts

DistributionThroughout the United States, including the states of Maine, Florida, New England, and even far west up to Kansas, Wisconsin, and Texas
HabitatWoodland areas, especially near oak trees
Predators Birds, spiders
Lifespan of AdultsNot recorded
Host PlantsDifferent oak tree varieties like the blackjack oak, dwarf chinquapin oak, live oak, white oak, scrub oak
Adult DietDon’t feed

Did You Know

  • Dru Drury, a British collector, described these moths first in 1773.
  • It has 11 subspecies in all, of which Hemileuca maia maia is enlisted in the endangered list in Connecticut.
  • There have been reports of the buck moth caterpillar’s stinging summer campers in the Goshen Scout Reservation of Virginia.
Buck Moth Image
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Buck Moth Picture
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Buck Moth Photo
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