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Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis)

Southern Flannel Moth
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Southern flannel moth of the flannel moth family is distributed in the eastern and southern parts of the United States and Central America. Their long hairy, scaly appearance makes them resemble a flannel, which is an outcome of their name.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Megalopygidae
  • Genus: Megalopyge
  • Scientific Name: Megalopyge opercularis

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar
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Southern Flannel Moth Larvae
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About 2.54 cm, the larva has a luxuriant covering of hair that makes them look like a miniature version of the Persian cat, resulting in the nickname puss. They have a range of colors varying from grayish-white to charcoal gray to golden brown, with bright orange streaks crossing their body longitudinally. During the initial stage, the fur is too fluffy, making them look puffed-up or cottony. The body gets tapered to a tail going way beyond its body in the first instar stage. In contrast, in the middle instar, it attains a more disheveled appearance, devoid of any tail. A full-grown larva approximately reaches a length of 4 cm.

Pupa

Southern Flannel Moth Cocoon
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It is one of the few pupae having movable (fourth and sixth) abdominal segments. Though the appendages are adjacent to the body’s surface, they are neither fixed to it nor to one another.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

The males appear smaller than the females and have more elongate rami (teeth-like projections) on their antennae than the latter. In females, the rami are so short that the antennae appear as faint as a thread.

Color and Appearance

Forewings: When opened, the forewings are yellow with patches of black (more prominent in the male moths) on the costal margins (area near the ribs) alongside white hairy projections near its base. When closed, it has a similar yellowish-black coloration with white borders on the edges.

Hindwings: When opened and closed, they have a creamy-yellow coloration spread uniformly throughout.

Megalopyge opercularis
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Besides their wings, the overall body color is dull orange or lemon yellow with hairy legs and black feet.

Average Wingspan: 2.4 – 3.6 cm

Flight Pattern: Not recorded

Season: March-May

Eggs

Southern Flannel Moth Eggs
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The eggs are light yellow, rounded near the edges, growing to 0.12 – 0.06 cm in length.

Quick Facts

Quick Facts

Other NamesPuss caterpillar, woolly slug, puss moth, asp caterpillar, tree asp, Italian asp, opossum bug (asd the larvae are called)
DistributionEastern parts of the U.S. touching southeastern Virginia, and Florida, southern U.S., Mexico, certain portions of Central America
HabitatGardens or forests where plum, oak, elm, rose, and ivy plants grow
PredatorsGreen lacewings, flies, wasps
Lifespan of AdultsNot recorded
Host PlantsElm, oak, rose, ivy, wild plum
Adult DietNectar of their host plants

Did You Know

  • The furry larva is infamous for its venomous spines and can sting humans if touched, resulting in symptoms like itching, pain, rash, or even headache and nausea in case of severities. Some common treatments include removing the spines (if any) using a cellophane tape, alongside applying ice packs or lotion.
Southern Flannel Moth Image
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Puss Caterpillar Moth
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Southern Flannel Moth Picture
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