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Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The White-marked Tussock Moth is a common native of North America, living throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. The caterpillars feed on a range of host plants including birch, cherry, apple, oak, and even some coniferous trees like fir and spruce.

White-marked Tussock Moths produce two generations each year. The first generation of caterpillars emerge from their eggs in spring, and feed on foliage for 4 to 6 weeks before pupating. In two weeks the adult moth emerges from the cocoon, ready to mate and lay eggs. The cycle is repeated, with the eggs from the second generation

Kelly Williams from Northumberland believes that she has discovered vagrant specimens of this exclusively New World species in her garden.

Hi Max/Jon

I've attached the photos of the first caterpillar I found (pics 1,2 & 3); on closer inspection/comparison, it may well be the same caterpillar. The tussocks look longer on the one found yesterday (pics 4 & 5) and darker in colour but this could be because it is maturing. I'm not sure, although it has inspired me to invest in a couple of butterfly and moth books so I can investigate a little more.

The pictures of the new one aren't fantastic but I'll get some more this afternoon. It was again found on the patio salix I have growing in a pot in my back yard.

I live in Lynemouth village in Northumberland, and only moved into the property last October so this is my first spring/summer here. The previous owner had nothing in the way of plant life in the yard that I can ever recall, as it was my friend's, father's property for over 35 years. Thanks for your time.

Kelly Williams.

1 comment:

blueguitar said...

The photographs show the larva of the Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua), a common and widespread native British species.

The males fly by day between July & October in two broods. They are on the wing at present and most people have probably seen them - orange-brown moths with a distinctive erratic flight. The females are flightless (indeed virtually wingless) and lay their eggs in large batches on or close to the vacated cocoons. These egg batches can often be found on tree trunks or fences. The caterpillars have an extraordinarily large range of foodplants.

For future reference, the following works can be helpful in determining British Lepidoptera larvae:

Porter, Jim: The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles (Viking, 1997);

Carter, D. J. & Hargreaves, B.: A Field Guide to Caterpillars of Butterflies & Moths of Britain & Europe (Collins, 1986);

and three volumes (two on moth larvae, one on butterfly larvae) in Warne's 'Wayside & Woodland' series from the 1940s.

(I think only the first of these books is still in print.)