Virginian tiger moth

(Spilosoma virginica)

Virginian tiger moth
Photo by Tom Baker
  Hodges #


Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure


not listed


Virginian tiger moth is a common, medium-sized, tiger moth. The adult is to 1 long and has a wingspan of 1¼ to 2.

The thorax is densely covered with long white hairs. The abdomen is white and yellowish-orange with an upper (middorsal) and two lateral longitudinal rows of black spots.

The wings are pure white. The forewing usually has one to three small black dots more or less in a line; one near the base along the antemedial line, one near the end of the discal cell, and one closer to the margin. Any or all of them may be absent. The hindwing usually has more and larger black spots; a spot in the discal area, and a row of spots in the postmedial area.

The head is white. The antennae are feathery, with extensions along both sides of the shaft (bipectinate).

The forelegs are yellowish-orange and black, the other legs white and black.

This tiger moth is most easily recognized when in the caterpillar stage. The caterpillar is densely covered from head to rear with long, orange or yellow, occasionally white, red, or black, hairs (setae). The setae are in clusters of several dark, short hairs and a single light, much longer hair. The longest hairs are more than three body segments in length. There is a small breathing hole (spiracle) surrounded by a white oval on both sides of each thoracic segment and all but the last abdominal segment. There are yellow markings on the abdomen. Mature caterpillars are found from May through November.




Wingspan: 1¼ to 2

Total Length: to 1


Similar Species


Agreeable tiger moth (Spilosoma congrua) abdomen is pure white with no yellow patches or black spots. The forewings usually have many small black spots. The hindwings are unspotted except for a small discal spot.


Woodlands, forests, fields, gardens.




Two generations. May to November






Life Cycle


The female extrudes an organ that emits a pheromone. Males are attracted by the scent of the pheromone. After mating, the female lays groups of 20 to 100 yellow eggs on the underside of a leaf. The caterpillar feeds for a short time and then spins a cocoon. After two or three weeks in the cocoon it emerges as an adult. The last generation in a year overwinters as larvae. Caterpillars are discovered by humans most often in the fall, when they are searching for a suitable location to hibernate.


Larva Hosts


A wide variety of trees, shrubs, and low-growing plants.


Adult Food




Distribution Map



7, 21, 29, 75.




Widespread and common



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  




  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  


Noctuoidea (noctuid moths)  




Arctiinae (tiger moths)  


  Subtribe Spilosomina  



In 2011 the family Arctiidae (tiger moths and lichen moths) was transferred to the family Erebidae mostly intact but demoted to a subfamily. The former subfamilies are now tribes, the former tribes now subtribes.




Diacrisia virginica?


Common Names


Virginian tiger moth

yellow bear (caterpillar)

yellow woollybear (caterpillar)

yellow woolly bear (caterpillar)

yellow woollybear moth











A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like structure on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.























Visitor Photos

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Lucy M


Yellow Woolly Bear Moth (Diacrisia virginica)

    Virginian tiger moth      

Alison Pauley

  Found this on a milkweed plant. Brought it home and it continued to eat on milk weed for a day or so before searching to make a coccon   Virginian tiger moth  
    Virginian tiger moth   Virginian tiger moth  

Natures helper


Hungry for water lily.

    Virginian tiger moth      

Vickie Johnson

    Virginian tiger moth      

Tom Baker

    Virginian tiger moth   Virginian tiger moth  


    Virginian tiger moth   Virginian tiger moth  



Yellow woolly bear caterpillar
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Yellow woolly bear caterpillar  

Larvae of the Virginia Tiger Moth

Spilosoma virginica


Virginia Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Virginia Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)  
Spilosoma virginica (Virginian Tiger Moth)
Allen Chartier
  Spilosoma virginica (Virginian Tiger Moth)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Virginian Tiger Moth (Erebidae: Spilosoma virginica) Caterpillar
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Aug 20, 2010

Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (20 August 2010). Go here to learn more about this species:

  Yellow Wooly Bear Caterpillar - Spilosoma virginica
Patricia Lane Evans

Published on Aug 11, 2012

Spotted this wooly bear caterpillar crawling quickly across a rock near the Art Barn on Star Island, Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire on August 5, 2012. It was on the move and most likely searching for a suitable place to hibernate. I believe this is a Yellow Wooly Bear Caterpillar. I have submitted an image of it to for confirmation. :-)

  Virginian Tiger Moth (Erebidae: Spilosoma virginica) Caterpillar
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2009

Photographed near Mekinock, North Dakota (27 July 2009).

  Virginian Tiger Moth (Erebidae: Spilosoma virginica) Lateral View
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Aug 8, 2011

Photographed at Fisher, Minnesota (07 August 2011). Thank you to Paul Dennehy ( for confirming the identity of this specimen!

  Orange woolly bear crawling
Bug of the Week

Published on Jun 5, 2013

An orange woolly bear, larva of the tiger moth Spilosoma virginica, busily crawls through tall grass.




Visitor Sightings

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  Lucy M

Location: Carver Co

Yellow Woolly Bear Moth (Diacrisia virginica)

Virginian tiger moth  
  Alison Pauley

Location: Sheldon, Iowa. O'Brien County

Found on a milkweed plant in a local park.

Virginian tiger moth  

Location: Pelican Lake (Breezy Point), Minnesota

  Vickie Johnson

Location: Victoria BC

Virginian tiger moth  




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