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Insects and other arthropods

White-marked tussock moth

Orgyia leucostigma

Tabs group


The adults in this species are quite different: the cream or light grey females are very hairy and wingless, while the males are grey or brownish, with small white spots and dark markings on their forewings. The males have well-developed feathery antennae and a wingspan of up to 3.5 cm.

The caterpillars can be recognized by their bright colours and assorted tufts of hair. They have a red head, a black stripe down the back and yellow stripes on the sides. Two long tufts of black hair stand up near the head, and four white, grey or yellow brush-shaped tufts of hair can be seen on the back. At the tip of the abdomen is a long, dark hair pencil. The caterpillars are up to 3.5 cm long.

Life cycle

The flightless females lay up to 300 eggs on or near the cocoon they emerged from. They cover the eggs with protective froth. In our northern regions, they lay their eggs in the fall and the egg masses may be visible during the winter on tree trunks and branches. The caterpillars develop in the space of five or six weeks the following spring, then spin a cocoon where they turn into chrysalises. Adults appear in late summer.

The species produces two generations, sometimes more, per year in the southern part of its range, and only one farther north.

Geographic distribution

These insects are found in eastern North America. In Canada, they occur from Alberta to Newfoundland.

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