The Basics:

 

  • Scientific name: Hemileuca species

  • Food Plant: Mostly oaks

  • Range: Several species, ranging across the US and into Canada and Mexico

  • Adult Moth: The adult moths are large, beautiful insects

  • Severity of Sting: Can be very painful, especially if you come into contact with a group of the caterpillars.

Buck Moths (genus Hemileuca)

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There are several closely related moths in the genus Hemileuca, and the larvae of all of them can sting. On occasion, they will undergo a population explosion; at these times, they will be found crawling around on the ground, and also gather in large mats of several dozen individuals on tree trunks. This provides the species with increased protection from predators, since an encounter with a large number of this stinging caterpillar is a truly intimidating event.

 

Buck moths are related to the io moth, which also has a number of less-well-known species and sub-species. In general, it's best to be cautious around caterpillars with bright colors and multiple sets of rosette spines.

The buck moth, genus Hemileuca

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