Virgin Tiger Moth

Yellow Woolly Bear

Grammia virgo

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The Virgin Tiger Moth is a nocturnal insect, belonging to the vast family of tiger moths. As with many moths in this family, it exhibits striking color patterns that serve as a warning to potential predators.

Virgin Tiger Moth

Common Name
Virgin Tiger Moth

Other Names

Yellow Woolly Bear

Latin Name

Grammia virgo

Distribution

The Virgin Tiger Moth can be found throughout much of North America.

Appearance

The adult moths are typically white with a smattering of black dots or splotches across the wings. The caterpillar is densely covered with bristles and varies in color but is commonly yellow or orange with black bands, hence the “Yellow Woolly Bear” moniker.

Size

Adult moths typically have a wingspan ranging from 5 to 8 cm. The caterpillar can reach lengths of up to about 5 cm.

Habitat

They can be found in various habitats, including forests, meadows, grasslands, and suburban areas.

Diet

The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including dandelions, plantains, and other low-growing herbs. As moths, they are nocturnal and are attracted more to lights than to flowers. However, they might feed on the nectar of various nocturnal blooming plants.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the Virgin Tiger Moth follows the standard for Lepidoptera: egg → caterpillar (larva) → pupa (inside a cocoon) → adult moth.

Defense Mechanisms

The dense bristles or setae on the caterpillar can be irritating to potential predators. Additionally, its bright coloration serves as aposematic (warning) coloration, signaling to predators that it might be unpalatable or harmful. The adult moth’s bright and contrasting patterns of white with black dots serve as a warning coloration, indicating to predators that they might be distasteful or toxic. This is another example of aposematic coloration.

Ecological Importance

Virgin Tiger Moths, like other insects, play a role in the ecosystem as pollinators and as a food source for various predators. The caterpillars help in plant control, feeding on various plants that might otherwise grow unchecked.

Conservation Status

The Virgin Tiger Moth isn’t known to be threatened or endangered and is relatively common in its range.
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