Harnessed Tiger Moth

Harnessed Tiger Moth – Apantesis phalerata

Harnessed Tiger Moth

Subfamily Arctiinae – Tiger and Lichen Moths
Hodges #8169. Live adult moths photographed at Winfield, Illinois

Formerly family Arctiidae, this is a large and diverse family of moths with around 11,000 species in three tribes worldwide [2].

The most distinctive feature of the family is a tymbal organ on the metathorax which uses a thin membrane to produce ultrasonic countermeasures against their chief predator’s (bats) echolocation system. Larvae of some species use sound along with color to advertise their inedibility; many species acquire chemical defenses from their hostplants e.g., milkweeds or dogbane.)

Harnessed Tiger Moth - lateral view

Many of the caterpillars and adults are active during the daytime. Common folklore has it that the forthcoming severity of a winter can be predicted by the amount of black on the Isabella tiger moth’s caterpillar, the most familiar woolly bear in North America; however the relative width of the black band varies among instars, not according to weather. Isabella tiger moths (Pyrrharctia isabella) overwinter in the caterpillar stage. They can survive freezing at moderate subzero temperatures by producing a cryo-protectant chemical (Layne and Kuharsky 2000). The larvae of another species, Phragmatobia fuliginosa, may be found on snow seeking a place to pupate.

Encyclopedia Britannica article

Encyclopedia Britannica used my picture in their online edition.
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1. Wikipedia, “Apantesis phalerata
2. Bugguide.net, “Subfamily Arctiinae
3. Bugguide.net, “Apantesis phalerata
4. Encyclopedia Britannica, Facts Matter, “Harnessed Tiger Moth”

Order Lepidoptera: Moths. Unlike the butterflies, moths are usually nocturnal. Many moths and their caterpillars are major agricultural pests in large parts of the world. Moths in the family Tineidae are commonly regarded as pests because their larvae eat fabrics, clothes and blankets made from natural fibers such as wool or silk. Moths in the genus Farinalis feed on stored grain, flour, corn meal and other milled grain products.
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