There are many types of tiger moths that live in the Pacific Northwest, the vestal tiger moth is my personal favorite. Tiger moths are named for the beauty of their variegated coloring and not from any tiger like tendencies. They can be spotted and banded, or pure snow white in color.
They have moderately broad wings and stout bodies and are among our fairly large species of moths. The majority of them fly at night, but occasionally a day flying species may be found frequenting the open places in the woods. During the daytime, however, most of them are at rest, with their wings sitting rooflike over their bodies, on trunks of trees, walls and other similar areas.
Belonging to a large family, there are many interesting species of tiger moths scattered over the world. In North America, there are around one hundred and twenty different kinds recorded.
Woolly bear is the popular name by which the caterpillars of many of our common tiger moths are known. The name was given to them in consequence of the coating of long bristle-like hairs with which the bodies of most of them are covered.
The caterpillars of tiger moths prefer herbaceous plants, although some species can be destructive to the foliage of trees. After spending the summer and fall feeding, some species spend the winter in cocoons woven of silk, mixed with hairs that are shed during the process of pupation. Others continue to feed until the plants are nipped by frost when they crawl into some convenient place of concealment and sleep away the winter months.
With the arrival of April and a new supply of herbaceous greens, we will find our little woolly bears again active and by May they will have attained the full measure of their growth. The tiger moth will then form a cocoon and in 2 to 3 weeks will emerge as a beautiful Moth.