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Milkweed Tussock (Euchaetes egle)

Milkweed Tussock
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The Milkweed Tussock belonging to the Erebidae family was described in 1773 by British collector Dru Drury. It has a wide range, occupying different parts of North America.  These moths acquire the name milkweed from their host plants. The larvae and even the adult moths are equipped with chemical defenses, obtained from the milkweed plants, which have toxic substances. This makes them poisonous for their potential predators, yet they stand beneficial enough for the ecosystem.

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar
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Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar
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The larva grows to about 3.5 cm with the early instars being gray and a little hairy.  Then, they appear like yellow tubes with black heads. As the caterpillar matures and reaches the late instar stage, its body is marked with orange, black, and white stripes. Later instars can be spotted alone or in a group of 2 – 10 on their host plants.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Erebidae
  • Genus: Euchaetes
  • Scientific Name: Euchaetes egle

Pupa

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar
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Milkweed Tussock Moth Cocoon
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The pupa, approximately 14mm long, remains enclosed in a gray cocoon covered with hairs.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Not prominent

Color and Appearance: Their wings, whether opened or closed, mostly have a dull gray coloration without prominent markings. However, some specimens have a faint, dark line on the forewing.

Milkweed Tiger Moth
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Milkweed Tussock Moth
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Besides this, they also have a yellow hairy abdomen, with black dots arranged in rows on the dorsal region.

Average wingspan: 3.2 – 4.3 cm

Flight pattern: Erratic

Season: September – May

Eggs

Milkweed Tussock Moth Eggs
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The eggs are round and pale grey, mostly laid underneath milkweed leaves in June.

Quick Facts

Other NamesMilkweed tiger moth
DistributionMaine, Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and parts of southern Canada,
HabitatNear wet meadows or swamps,  especially where milkweed mostly grows 
PredatorsBats, beetles, spiders
Lifespan of AdultsNot recorded
Host plantsMilkweed and dogbane
Adult dietMainly nectar

Did You Know

  • This species is alternately referred to as tiger moth since they are a part of the Arctiini (tiger moth) tribe. Secondly, the larva’s white, orange, and black shades are reminiscent of a tiger’s coloration.
  • The male moth uses its tymbal organs for calling females as well as defending themselves against their predators.
Milkweed Tiger Moth Picture
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Milkweed Tussock Moth Life Cycle
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Milkweed Moth
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