Dogbane Tiger Moth

5-25-12  Buffy and I were taking a walk around the yard before the heat of the day arrived. I carried my camera just in case. A quail that called and called but didn’t cooperate for a picture. These moths didn’t know I was close.

I snapped 2 pictures. The male is the one upside down.

The male flew off after I took the second picture. The female just stayed there.

I didn’t realize until doing online research that the moths were on dogbane. Dogbane tiger moths lay their eggs on dogbane. The moths also go by the names Cycnia tenera, delicate cycnia and dogbane moth. Besides dogbane (Apocynum species) they also lay eggs on milkweeds (Asclepias sp.) Both have a milky sap that make the caterpillars toxic to predators. The caterpillars being covered with fine pale gray or whitish hairs might be a deterent to predators too. Plus the caterpillars feed at night. Adults are active at night too.

Dogbane, also known as Indian hemp

I almost forgot — the moths have a bright yellow abdomen with rows of black spots, which I couldn’t see. Their wingspan measures 1 1/4 – 1 5/8 inches, and they’re found through the U.S. I will sure be hunting for holes in my dogbane plants, looking for hungry caterpillars.

5-30-12   I took a break from weeding to do a walk-about around the yard with my camera. First stop was the dogbane, and there, without any searching, was a cluster of eggs. On the second plant to the right was another cluster.

Now I can monitor how long it takes the eggs to hatch … I found them hatching the next morning. I had a “duh” moment, because I didn’t think that another moth might have already laid eggs on the plants. Now I can watch them grow.

Caterpillars still hatching

6-1-12   I took a break in the afternoon to get out and get fresh air. With camera, I headed straight for the caterpillars. I was shocked. All the caterpillars in the second cluster were gone. I couldn’t even tell which leaf they had been on. Then half or less of the other group were gone too.

6-2-12 Caterpillar numbers were the same as what I found yesterday.

a.m. caterpillars on the leaf

3 p.m. and this only caterpillar I found

So then I didn’t know if the caterpillars were eaten by a predator, if they dispersed  or both. Guess only time will tell. The caterpillar was about 1/8 inch long, and its coloring didn’t make it easy to spot. I read that they feed together in groups of 8-10 when young.


6-16-12 I didn’t see any more caterpillars until tonight. And I did look. I was making my usual loop around the weed patch, saw tiny droppings on a dogbane leaf, and then found this caterpillar.

Caterpillar 1/2 inch long

I located the second caterpillar when I saw a rolled leaf. The caterpillar had rolled the leaf and used it for protection as it shed its skin. The small, roundish area of denser white is the shed skin.

Just shed its skin

I will continue looking for caterpillars. I lack experience rearing moth caterpillars and will be satisified viewing what presents itself.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Therese on June 17, 2012 at 7:50 am

    JAW-DROPPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Simply awesome pictures! And of the eggs! Holy Smoke, you’re good!


  2. Posted by Steph on June 19, 2012 at 7:09 am

    terrific stuff Mom!


  3. This is a gorgeous butterfly, and I really enjoy this kind of post showing larvae, host, and adult. Thanks for your curiosity! Now, I wonder what the pupae look like …


    • I do have curiousity in spades, and without trying. My best friend’s always kidding me on my asking so many questions. For some reason I have no interest in rearing butterflies and caterpilalrs. I’ve reared very few butterflies to adults and only 1 moth.


  4. The moth looks like a stink bug or something


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