Posts Tagged ‘Seabrooke Leckie’


While out hiking at Charleston Lake, I spotted this fuzzy, bristly caterpillar. When I got home, I looked it up in my Caterpillars of Eastern North America guide, by David L. Wagner. It’s the caterpillar of the Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle). As the name suggests, milkweed it the preferred food plant for these caterpillars.

The Tussock moth label is a misnomer, as these moths are classified with tiger moths. Another tiger moth caterpillar that you are probably familiar with is the Woolly Bear. For more on Woolly Bears, follow this link. A less well known relative, also common at this time of the year is the Hickory Tussock, linked here.

Some people have an allergic reaction, developing a rash, after handling these caterpillars, so it is not a good idea to pick them up, no matter how cute and fuzzy them may look.

Female moths lay large batches of eggs, and while the caterpillars are tiny, they live together on one plant before dispersing. Monarch butterflies are well know to also use milkweed as their larval food source, but Wagner notes that Monarchs tend to prefer young shoots, while Tussocks are content to eat older foliage.

The caterpillar will overwinter in a cocoon and emerge as a moth next year. Here’s the adult moth, below. Thanks to daughter Seabrooke for providing this photo. You will find the Milkweed Tussock Moth and a host of others in Seabrooke’s Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. Learn more at her website, The Marvelous in Nature, linked here.


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It’s here! Finally, after many months of hard work and anticipation, our daughter Seabrooke received her advance copy of her new book, the Peterson Field Guide to Moths. How exciting! We, her doting parents, rushed over to take a look at the long-awaited book. It’s even more beautiful than expected! You can get a peek at the interior and read the author’s comments over at Seab’s blog, linked here. The guide is scheduled to arrive in bookstores April 17th. Congratulations, Seabrooke!

P.S. Thanks to Ellen for bringing up autographed copies. They’re available through Seab’s website, link above.

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While doing some weeding in the garden on the weekend, I came across this interesting caterpillar. It was nibbling its way along a daylily leaf. Caterpillars are an eternal wonder. That such a creature could be magically reborn as a butterfly or moth is incredible. The question is, what kind of butterfly or moth will it become?

I have a couple of guide books to help answer this question. One is the Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars, by Amy Bartlett Wright. It is an accessible look at some common caterpillars, the ones you are most likely to encounter. David Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America is much more inclusive. Both books failed me in this case. It was time to move on to my next source, my daughter Seabrooke! Sure enough, the co-author of the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America was able to identify my caterpillar as a Hitched Arches (Melanchra adjuncta), and she kindly provided me with this photograph of the moth my caterpillar will some day become. Thank you!


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