Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tricolor Buckmoth

Some of you may remember the Io moth adventures from a year or two back. These beautiful caterpillars and moths provided me with no end of amusement. (I love bugs. I'm lucky that way.)

I got them when they were wee babies, all orange and huddled together; they grew big and strong and green, very pretty, with stinging spines that nabbed me more than once. Io moths have a silly-looking habit of traipsing about in a nose-to-tail line. They munched down orchid tree leaves, stinging me here and there when I wasn't paying close enough attention to how I handled them.

They pupated - first spinning cocoons, as all moths do. And then they hatched, over and over, in the home office. There was a beautiful array of adult males and females, and they were the reddish Florida subspecies I was hoping for. We bonded: they'd sit unafraid on my hand for hours. I got a gazillion pix before letting them go outside, to begin their life cycle all over again.

Desert Cat was overrun with stinging caterpillars several months ago. I wondered what they were, of course. He had some nice pix of the caterpillars - and of the awful welts their stings caused on his hands, too.

It looks like pupa hatching time has arrived. Since I couldn't make enough progress on the caterpillars to identify them, I was thrilled to see pix of an adult moth.

I think I finally may have identified our little friend. It looks like it's a tricolor buckmoth. Hemileuca tricolor, Buck and Io Moths Subfamily, Family: Wild Silk Moths (Saturniidae).

See the subfamily? You may be interested to note that buckmoths are kissing cousin to...the Io moths!

Yes indeed. My own little friends of old are close relatives of Desert Cat's stinging caterpillars.

At first I thought DC's guy might be a Palo Verde buckmoth, Hemileuca juno. The caterpillar looks quite similar, and of course, it also eats palo verde, just like DC's did. Then I finally saw a pic of the adult, which is nearly black. Nope.

Here's some more nice H. tricolor images (scroll down to 7727W) and info.

There really are some very pretty buckmoths out there. Check out this one, Nuttal's.

1 comment:

Desert Cat said...

And there's gobs more hatching this winter.