Moths are in the air
May is when moths become more apparent. The moths are looking for mates and places to lay their eggs. May brings the first rains of winter and every moth wants their caterpillars to have the best new leaf growth of the season to eat.
This is true of the Tiger Moth. Distinguished by its black and white wings and its orange and black banded body (from where it gets its name), the adult Tiger Moths start to emerge in May.
You no doubt recognise their caterpillars, too. They grow to about 4cm in length and have long dark hairs all over their body. When disturbed they curl up and drop to the ground. They are commonly called Woolly Bear Caterpillars.
After the caterpillar has eaten as much as it can, and grown as big as it can, it pupates in a crevice under bark or wherever it can find. It sheds all of its hairs and fills the space around it with a silken mass full of the irritating hairs. Here it stays for at least 4 weeks.
If it is early in the season, a new adult moth will emerge and start the cycle again. If it is late in the season, the caterpillar will stay in the cocoon until May of the following year – waiting for the first rains and the promise of new vegetation upon which its caterpillars can feed.