Friday, January 25, 2013

Caterpillar Identification -- The Garden Tiger Moth

Scientific name: Arctia caja
Family: Arctiidae

This caterpillar is about as furry as they come, and that may protect it from attacks by parasitic wasps and flies, who need to get a good grip on their victims. This species in one of several commonly referred to as woolly bears, but this particular one is considerably less common and more spectacular as an adult than most. It's range is "circumpolar," which means it lives in various places around the world, generally in northern or temperate climates. In some years it becomes fairly common, and is sometimes found in the lower elevations of mountains in California and southern Canada. It eats low plants like plantains, and spins a furry cocoon -- both cocoon and caterpillar may be irritating to the skin of  sensitive people.

By Temple of Mara (Own work) [<a href="">CC-BY-SA-3.0</a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

This is the gorgeous moth that this caterpillar turns into. Its bright colors are thought to warn birds and other predators that is might taste bad -- although insects that are perfectly edible sometimes use bright colors to fool their enemies into thinking they taste bad. It can get pretty confusing!

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