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Overwintering Moth Larvae Becoming Active

One of the last things one might expect to see on a newly-exposed grassy field in the middle of March is a caterpillar crawling along. This would be unexpected because most moths overwinter as eggs or pupae inside cocoons, not as caterpillars (larvae).  Most moths, but not all.  Some species of moths overwinter as larvae (and adults). 

Tiger Moths (and Tussock Moths) overwinter as caterpillars and pupate in the spring before emerging as adults during the summer.  One member of the Tiger Moth group that is familiar to many is the Isabella Tiger Moth, known as the Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) in its larval stage.  Another member of this group that overwinters as a caterpillar is the Great Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).  As early as mid-March you can find both of these caterpillars wandering in search of a protected spot where they will form hairy cocoons that surround and protect their pupal cases.  The pictured Tiger Moth adult (Great or Garden Tiger Moth) bears the white geometric stripes that give the members of this group their common name. 

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5 responses

  1. Last night in the Berkshires I turned on the flood light over our driveway and saw perhaps 10 or more flying moths that seemed to be triggered by the light as they are in summer! The seemed to be orange/pinkish and were about the size of a quarter. Since we still have below freezing temperatures at night I couldn’t imagine what they are. Do you have any ideas? Thanks. Betsy Bobi

    March 22, 2021 at 9:05 am

    • Hi Betsy,
      I’m afraid I’m not enough of an entomologist to know without seeing a photo! So sorry.

      March 26, 2021 at 7:08 am

  2. Alice

    I’ll be on the look-out. Saw my first ..surprise…small bee on a Snowdrop, when I was lying on my belly taking pictures, yesterday.

    March 22, 2021 at 10:46 am

  3. I also was amazed to see a few small bees buzzing around and visiting the snowdrops that are already up and in blossom in my yard! Both blossoms and bees seem ready for action very early this year… but the sun has certainly been feeling very powerful (and very welcome!)

    March 22, 2021 at 11:47 am

    • Alice

      This was a very small bee, not a ‘regular ‘ Honey (we had Honeys for 2 years), there was pollen on the Snowdrops.

      March 22, 2021 at 1:39 pm

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