Giant Leopard Moth ~ Hypercompe scribonia

This little guy is in his ‘Don’t eat me!’ a posture that protects his underside and flashes the orange stripes, which usually mean this meal is unpalatable.

The Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) various forests having host plants on which the caterpillars forage extensively. Gardens, farmlands, woodlands and public areas can be frequented by them.

Females emit pheromones that are caught by the antenna of the males that successfully locates the female for mating. When mating is over, the female gets on with the process of laying eggs.

Giant Leopard Moth
Adults fly from April to September

After the eggs are laid, the larvae come out of them which start feeding on the leaves where they emerge out of the eggs. As caterpillars, they assume the wooly bear appearance and go into hibernation for some time during the winters. But it might as well wake up for light foraging on milder days in the temperate regions. After sleeping over winter, it weaves cocoon from its body. It becomes the pupa after molting in the wake of spring. In the next few weeks, it transforms into an adult moth.

Host plants for larvae: cherries, plantains, violets, honeysuckles, magnolia, cabbage, sunflower, lilac, dandelion, pokeweed, willow, maples and other broad-leaved plants.

The dorsal aspect of the abdomen is iridescent, blue-black with orange lateral spots or occasionally orange with large blue-black spots. The legs also have iridescent, blue-black setae.

When threatened, adults ‘play possum’ and curl their abdomen to display their bright orange stripes. They also secrete a droplet of yellow, acrid fluid from the thoracic glands that is bitter tasting.

© The Naturarian

7 thoughts on “Giant Leopard Moth ~ Hypercompe scribonia”

  1. I cringe whenever I see fuzzy black caterpillars. There’s one around here nicknamed “packsaddle” that looks like a jet black version of the woolly bear, and it stings like hell. I have no idea whose larva it is though, but I’m guessing some kind of moth. The internet keeps saying “harmless leopard moth”, but this vile mystery bug is far from harmless. It leaves some nasty welts and I’m not the only one who has scars from it. Any ideas?


    1. I’ve always stayed away from most ‘fuzzy’ looking caterpillars. I learned the hard way myself as a youngin’. OH those suck.
      I did find some crazy YouTube videos about them… 😉 However, I also found some good factual material from the University of Kentucky (CLICK here for the link). If we’re talking about the same Mr. Not-so-warm-and-fuzzy, I think it’s a Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia). Let me know if I win a Chicken Dinner


      1. Nah, the Buck Moth larva is way too naked for this hairball of doom. But thank you though. I’ve been trying for a few years to identify the evil thing, and by this point, I think I’m just going to have to don a pair of gloves, go hiking through the woods, and capture the savage beast to see what it grows up to be. 😛


    1. That moth is huuuuge! You’re always welcome to comment/post on my posts. I love the extra info and yes, I get to learn something! 🤓 Thank you!


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