Monday, January 07, 2013

Eastern Buckmoth

Today, we were able to add another insect to our growing list at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest.  While in a young Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) stand we planted, we observed numerous black, white and orange moths flitting about low to the ground.  A quick check of the Internet and we learned our never-before-consciously-seen moth was an Eastern Buckmoth (Hemileuca maia) so called for its abundance late in the fall when deer are rutting.

Longleaf Pine restoration - Mark Musselman
The adults do not eat, but focus their energy on reproduction.  The male with his large, comb-like antennae flits about in hopes of detecting the pheromone trail emitted by the female.  The pair in the image (the male has the mostly orange abdomen tip) seemed to have found each other but played 'possum when we handled them for the photograph.

Female and male Eastern Buckmoth - Mark Musselman
Once a pair has located each other and mated, the female will attach her eggs in rings around the twig of a host plant, which can be one of several varieties of oak.  The caterpillars will develop through several instars as they eat oak leaves.  Stingy bristles, called urticating hairs, appear in the later instars.  These bristles can deliver venom causing anything from mild irritation to dermatitis to nausea.  Ouch!

We'll stick to watching the bits of color flitting through the drab winter landscape.


Holly said...

Cool ! I like it.

Vaughn said...

This is cool!