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Notes from the Field – Summer 2018

Around the office we are all going a little bit crazy for the Moth and Butterfly metamorphosis currently taking place.  This strange sight in the gazebo at Grant’s Woods didn’t help our obsession.   After a bit of investigation, “Murdoch Hawke” (Stewardship Manager Dave Hawke), solved the mystery: 

These brightly marked caterpillars are the Definite Tussock Moth and the White-marked Tussock Moth.  They wander around eating tree leaves, then spin a cocoon in a sheltered area (such as the Grant’s Woods gazebo where there are about a dozen at the moment).  

When they emerge a few weeks later as an adult moth, the males fly while the females can’t as they have tiny wings no good for flying. The females immediately attract a flying male and mating takes place right on the recently exited cocoon. The eggs are laid on the cocoon and covered with a frothy coating. The adults die, and stay stuck to the eggs that are in turn  glued to empty cocoon until hatching next spring.

Note:  Caterpillar hairs may cause allergic reactions if they come in contact with sensitive skin.  This includes the coccoon.

July 31, 2018


photo: Ginny Moore


All over our region, the metamorphosis of caterpillar into butterfly is taking place. 

After eating their way through the leaves of plants they were born onto, caterpillars then hang from twigs, leaves, or buildings, and either spin a cocoon or molt in a chrysalis. 

Within the chrysalis, the old body parts of the caterpillar are transforming into a butterfly.  






photo: Ginny Moore

When ready, the butterfly emerges, rests for several hours, pumps blood into their wings and flies away.  To complete the lifecycle, butterflies will lay  eggs on plants the caterpillars like to eat sometime in early summer. 

Generally speaking, if a caterpillar is hairy it will become a moth, and if smooth will become a butterfly.  – July 30, 2018

These photos were taken at the Ron Reid Nature Reserve during a recent Passport to Nature event. 


July 30, 2018



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