Hag Moth and Caterpillar

Hag moth

Common Name: Hag moth

Scientific Name: Phobetron pitchecium

Season: Adult, May-Oct.; caterpillar, July-Oct.

Food: Many woody plants, including apple, ash, cherry, chestnut, dogwood, hickory, oak, persimmon, walnut, and willow.

Ecology: One of the most bizarre looking caterpillars in the US, referred to as “monkey slugs”. Caterpillars bear six pairs of feathery appendages that easily break off, and these appendages contain stinging hairs that can be painful if touched. It is believed that the caterpillars are meant to mimic the shed skins of tarantulas, hence the strange appearance. In contrast, the adult female hag moths mimic the appearance of bees, with large tufts of hair on the middle leg to mimic the appearance of a pollen basket. Males mimic the appearance of wasps. All of these different appearances are to fool birds into avoiding the insect as a meal.

Doug Tallamy Photos


Hag moth caterpillar