They are most commonly seen while wandering about in Fall when many species are looking for places to overwinter. Many of them spend the winter in caterpillar form, under a log or otherwise hidden. They awaken the following spring and continue feeding as caterpillars for a while before pupating and emerging as tiger moths in the summer.
|The Woolly Bear caterpillar, the larva of the Isabella Moth and predictor of winter weather.|
|The Northern (Giant) Leopard Moth caterpillar, not only larger than the typical woolly bear, but also has red segments in between black bristles.|
|They Yellow Bear is very variable, ranging from yellow to almost red, but always with hairs on its body of different lengths.|
|The Delicate Cycnia or Dogbane Tiger Moth caterpillar is usually more visible in summer, light colored on dogbane or milkweeds.|
The adult tiger moths tend be bright colored, often white, as warning colors at night. Several of the fuzzy moths are poisonous to many potential predators. They not only announce this by their coloration, but have another means of doing so. When a tiger moth hears a bat coming after them and using its echolocation to find them, they not only take evasive action like most moths, but also vocalize back.
|Delicate Cycnia or Dogbane Tiger Moth, showing the typical white coloration of the family.|
The sounds they send out originally were believed to "jam" the bat's echolocation, but now it appears that they are actually warning sounds. They warn the bats that the tiger moths are distasteful. If they eat one, they will there after link the sound the tiger moths make with how bad they taste.
|An Agreeable Tiger Moth - most tiger moths are white or light colored; the only warning colors that show up at night.|
This group of hairy caterpillars and the tiger moths they turn into are interesting and luckily fairly common. People of all ages always seem to be amused and curious when they discover them. Now perhaps we can appreciate them even more knowing more about them.