The garden tiger moth is a moth of the family Erebidae. It is a predominantly northern species found in Canada, the US, and Europe.
The moth favors cold climates with moderate seasonality, as the larvae overwinter and preferentially chooses host plants that provide pyrrolizidine alkaloids. However, garden tiger moths are generalists and choose many different plants to use as larval host plants.
Tiger moths are called so because of their kaleidoscopic coloring’s beauty and not from any homicidal tendencies. They’re unlike tigers when in terms of behavior.
They are banded, contrastingly spotted, or pure snow white. They have broadwings and stout bodies and are among our reasonably large species of moths. The bulk of them fly at night, but sometimes a day-flying species may be discovered frequenting the open places in the woods. However, during the daytime, most of them are at rest, with their wings sloping roof-like over their bodies, on tree trunks, rocks, walls, and similar situations.
The garden tiger moth hatches around the top of summer (from July to September), overwinters once, comes back in spring, and achieves growth by June. From June to July (or September-October in warmer climates), the adults are relatively active, essentially at night. Eggs are extensively laid on leaf surfaces, and the larvae hatch and eat shortly after the oldest past generation has died. After feeding for a couple of months, the larvae go into quick dormancy while covered in the ground matter. In spring, the larvae return to feeding and pupate. By the end of June or even July, adults emerge from the same generation laid in the previous fall. It is vital to note that there is no generation overlap during all life stages, either as larvae or adults.
Like many caterpillars of the tiger moth family, these moths as caterpillars are “fuzzy” in appearance, leading them to be called “woolly bears” by most viewers. Once the caterpillars reach a specific size, they procure hollow tubes that often include vexatious compounds. The larvae rely upon the host plant (or trees) for their toxic compounds, which they regenerate from plant defense compounds to adult and larval protection compounds. The caterpillars can evolve to a maximum size of 2.4 in (6 cm) long.
Adults are most active from June to August-September (primarily August in more northern climates), predominately at night. They have red hairs on their bright cervical regions with glands in a circle and patterning across the wings meant to advertise and warn toxicity.
The garden tiger moth adults can make rasping sounds with their wings and emit high-pitched squeaking sounds that are even audible to humans. These sounds have been discovered to influence bat behavior, as the squeaks of this insect cause most bats to avoid the toxic moth.
The fascinating digestion of this species is most striking in the larval stage. The host plants of this kind almost always display toxins known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids. To handle this without harm, the caterpillars have evolved the capacity to metabolize an extensive range of toxins using unusual enzymes. These enzymes both transform the plant’s toxins into a non-toxic form, but they also allow the larval tiger moth to use these toxins in a remodeled form for protection.