Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Milkweed Tussock Moth

No Monarch cats on the Asclepias syriaca, but, I did find a Euchaetes egle feeding on its leaves yesterday afternoon.
It looks like a colorful pipe cleaner to me.

I've seen plenty of critters on my common milkweed, but, this caterpillar is a first for me. I knew it was a tussock cat by its bright color and bristly hairs, but, had to research to id it. I suspect that this is the final instar for this cat and before long it will leave the milkweed plant and pupate in its small, gray felted cocoon until next spring.

Milkweed Tussock moth
The moths aren't super colorful like the cats, but, they do have  orange and black abdomens that might make spotting them easier. Of course, you know that I will be watching for them.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy this beauty and appreciate the dozens of other critters that rely on Asclepias syriaca in bloom, in seed or just the plant. By the way, common milkweed was our June Wildflower Wednesday star, stop by/click on the link to see its gorgeous bloom.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. This is the first year I have had this insect also. I have had three hatches so they have devoured the milkweed. I have also moved them around to work on the the milkvine which have agreed to do. I'm sure they will cycle out soon. Hopefully enough foliage is left for the Monarchs. I've also noticed the aphids haven't been any problem on the milkweed this year, strange.

  2. Hi, Gail! You might know this one would cause me to make a comment! Ha! I know they need to live, too, but keep a watch on your milkweed. Unlike the monarch, they lay eggs in clusters and can decimate a leaf and a plant in no time once those hungry larvae hatch. If you have plenty of milkweed, it won't be too much of a problem, but if you don't... That being said, I think they're so cute!

  3. It is a beauty! I always let them live on my milkweed. Plenty to share.

  4. Very cool pic of the caterpillar.

  5. I had some in previous years... I think on Asclepias incarnata. I have more milkweed than ever this year, but have not seen any cats yet :( (Milkweed bugs, yes. Cats, no.)

  6. I have these caterpillars in abundance in my Maine garden. As Kylee noted, they usually hatch out in large groups. In the first few instars, the tiny caterpillars completely cover the plant and devour leaves in an amazingly short time. I assume that many provide food for the birds and don't survive to the later instars when I am more likely to find only a few on a plant.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson