Saturday, September 17, 2005

Tiger moth caterpillar?

There are so many bugs--so much variety, and so many still left to name, I am always amazed by an identification of anything beyond the very numerous, showy, and or commonplace. My little clearwing problem was cleared up pretty quickly, but then there are only a very few clearwings to choose from. Much more impressive was the identification (at least probable) of a moth over at Science and Sarcasm, by Tony of milkriverblog. In that case, he made the i.d. comparing troutgrrrl's photo of a very pretty living moth to a photo of a faded, dusty specimen in a collection somewhere. Good eyes, Tony! (See troutgrrrl's follow-up here.)

I took this picture of a caterpillar back in August, I had no idea what it is.

Feeding on viper's bugloss in the far field.

Over at What's that Bug, they seem to identify every fuzzy caterpillar as a wooly bear, as a caterpillar of a tiger moth. I've always reserved the name "wooly bear" for the black/brown and orange caterpillars, the common banded wooly bear, adult Isabella tiger moth (family, Arctiidae), that appear all over the place in the fall. Word is, you can predict the severity of the winter to come by the width of the lighter band--if you know which way it goes, i.e., whether a wider orange band means milder or more severe. Sadly, I don't know this.

A view of the caterpillar's head--note the yellow markings.

I searched around with my tiger moth clue, to no avail, until I remembered to check Bev Wigney's gallery, where I found an image of the caterpillar of a Virginian tiger moth. (The great thing about Bev is not only that her photographs are so good, but she takes most of them not too far east of Thomasburg.) I don't see any yellow on her caterpillar, but otherwise it seems very similar to mine--could it be?


TroutGrrrl said...

That camera of yours was certainly a great investment! Wonderful pictures. I think you've chosen even a more difficult identification than the moth that stumped me. I wish I knew something about these critters but it's all beyond my limited knowledge.

Thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

The way the old myth goes (the one that says you can tell the severity of the coming winter by the bands on the wooly bear caterpillar's back)is this: thicker orange bands mean a milder winter; thicker dark bands mean a harsher winter.