Tiger moths, so called from the beauty of their variegated coloring and not from any ferocious tendencies, are contrastingly spotted and banded, or pure snow white. They have moderately broadwings and stout bodies, and are among our fairly large species of moths. The majority of them fly at night, but occasionally a day-flying species may be found frequenting the open places in the woods. During the daytime, however, most of them are at rest, with their wings sloping roof-like over their bodies, on tree trunks, rocks, walls and similar situations.
Belonging to a large family, there are many interesting species of tiger moths scattered over the world. In this country something like one hundred and twenty different kinds are recorded. Some of our common species are the Isabella tiger moth, the harlequin milkweed tiger, the salt marsh tiger, the hickory tiger, and the apantesis of which there are a number of species known, and the vestal tiger moth of the West. From the eggs, laid by a female tiger moth, there will hatch the larvae or caterpillars that represent the I infant stage of these insects.
“Woolly bear” is the popular name by which the caterpillars of many of our common tiger moths are known. The name was given to them in consequence of the coating of long bristle-like hairs with which the bodies of most of them are covered. I may here remark that when alarmed, or the moment we touch one of these “woollv bears” it curls itself up into a ring and falls to the ground. So elastic are the hairs that the caterpillar may be dropped from a considerable height without suffering any injury. It is also likely that its hairy body serves to deter enemies from meddling with it.
The caterpillars, or larvae of tiger moths, are very general feeders, preferring herbaceous plants, although some species are destructive to the foliage of trees. After becoming fully fed some species spend the winter in cocoons woven of silk, mixed with hairs that are shed during the process of pupation. Others continue to feed until the plants are nipped by frost, when they crawl into some convenient place of concealment and sleep away the winter months.
With the arrival of April and a new supply of herbaceous greens, we will find our little woolly bears again active and “on the job” with their appetites. Bv Maytime they will have attained the full measure of their growth. If we watch a woolly bear at this time, we will find that before changing to the pupal stage it will proceed to spin its cocoon, interweaving it with hairs plucked from its body. Shut up in this snug retreat it will quickly became a pupa, and in two or three weeks come forth a tiger moth complete. That is the story of our tiger moth.