Bug of Week 16: Giant Leopard Moth

Remember our very first bug of the week back in March? It was the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, which hatches into this week's bug of the week, the Giant Leopard Moth. (Note: there are a few different caterpillars that go by the name Woolly Bear, the type that turns into a leopard moth is different than the caterpillar featured in week 1. Learn more below under Life Cycle!)

Giant Leopard Moths are recognizable by their white wings with shiny black and blue spots, similar to a leopard's coat. They have a three inch wingspan, and when their wings are spread you can see their colorful orange, blue, black, and white abdomen.


Please be gentle and respectful to all animals and insects.

Species Hypercompe scribonia

HABITAT (WHERE THEY LIVE): The giant leopard moth prefers field, meadow, and forest habitats, and can be found in eastern North America and as far south as Colombia. The moths are nocturnal and can be found between April and September.

NUTRITION (WHAT THEY EAT): The caterpillars eat broad leaf plants such as violets, sunflowers, basil, dandelions, and lettuce, as well as leaves from willow, maple, and cherry trees. Adult leopard moths do not eat, and spend their short time as a moth reproducing.

PREDATORS (WHO EATS THEM): When threatened, the caterpillars release a bitter-tasting yellow fluid from its thorax to defend itself against predators. While the thorns on their body might look dangerous, they're actually not poisonous and completely harmless, but do protect them against predators.

LIFE CYCLE: Leopard moths lay hundreds of pearly grey eggs in the fall, which hatch into caterpillars. The caterpillars overwinter and transform into moths in the spring.


Sources: 

AAAS

DirtDoctor