Don’t let their beauty fool you. The colorful and hairy tussock moth caterpillars are voracious eaters feeding on a variety of trees and shrubs.
I stumbled upon the butterfly expert’s adage that “the homelier the caterpillar, the more spectacular the adult (and vice versa)”. This is certainly true of the tussock moths. The caterpillars are often colorful and covered with hairs. The adults tend to be plain and brown or white.
Nature usually keeps many of the tussock moths under control. Parasitic wasps, predators, unfavorable weather, or a lack food usually reduces their populations.
When needed, you can lend nature a helping hand with a bit of winter clean up. Remove the hairy egg masses from the bark crevices on tree trunks or other protected locations. Or spray the egg masses with a soybean oil product labeled for this use. Wear gloves as the hairs can be irritating.
A bit more information: You may already be familiar with the non native gypsy moth, a member of this group of moths. It was brought to the United States as a potential alternative to the silk worm. It escaped and has spread throughout much of North America feeding on a wide range of plants.
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