Tussock Moth Caterpillar


Actual Size: Ranges from 1 to 1.5 inches in length.

Characteristics: These caterpillars are recognized by their bright colors and striking tufts of hair, which are often arranged in unique patterns. Protruding hair tufts on their backs add to their vibrant appearance.

Antennae: No

Wings: No

Habitat: Tussock moth caterpillars are adaptable to a variety of settings, from natural forests to city landscapes. They are particularly drawn to trees and bushes, consuming their leaves.


  • The hairs covering these caterpillars act as a natural defense, deterring predators with the potential to cause skin irritation in humans.
  • They are often referred to as spotted caterpillars due to their appearance.
  • Over time, they can significantly defoliate trees and shrubbery, impacting plant health.

Tussock Moth Caterpillars in Jacksonville FL

Also known as spotted caterpillars, Tussock moths are notable for their caterpillars, which are prevalent in many ecosystems. These insects go through a life cycle that includes egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult moth stages, with the larval stage being particularly damaging.

Known for their noticeable hair tufts and vivid colors, tussock moth caterpillars use these features to ward off predators and signal the risk of skin irritation to humans. Certain species have urticating hairs or carry toxins that can cause dermatitis or allergic reactions on contact.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar Habitat

These caterpillars thrive in diverse environments such as woodlands, urban parks, and residential gardens, anywhere there are enough host plants to support their diet. Spotted caterpillars primarily eat leaves from a variety of trees and shrubs. Their feeding habits often result in significant foliage loss, especially in localized areas. Although they favor trees like oak, maple, birch, and poplar, they are not exclusive and can feed on several plant types simultaneously.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

While tussock moth caterpillars mainly pose a threat to plant life through defoliation, they can also be a hazard to human health. Their distinctive hairs can release toxins that lead to severe skin reactions and allergies. If spotted caterpillars are frequently spotted near your residence or business, it is advisable to consult a pest control expert to manage the infestation effectively.

If you are dealing with excess Tussock Moth Caterpillars on your property, contact a local pest control professional.