Pale Tussock Moth, Calliteara pudibunda

 Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda) © 2005 Steve Ogden

The Pale Tussock moth is a common species throughout much of the southern half of England and much of Europe. Also record in Northern Ireland and parts of northern England.

The moths fly in a single generation from late Spring to early summer when they are attracted to light.

Females are larger and paler than the males. Males having a wing length of up to 22mm, females approximately 30mm.

When settled the moths extend their hairy front legs out it front.

Males have comb-like antennae.

 Pale Tussock Moth (Calliteara pudibunda) on tree trunk © 2006 Steve Ogden
 Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda) © 2008 Steve Ogden

Caterpillar of the Pale Tussock Moth Calliteara pudibunda

Fully grown Pale Tussock caterpillar (Calliteara pudibunda)

The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees as well as many other plants such as bramble and hops.

They were once commonly found on hops growing in the south east of England where the pickers referred to the caterpillars as Hop Dogs.

The hairs of the caterpillars were reputed to have caused quite severe allergic skin reactions among the pickers.

Caterpillar galleries

Other hairy caterpillars

 Pale Tussock 3mm newly emerged larva  (Calliteara pudibunda)
The caterpillars are slow growing, taking over two months to reach 40mm in length.

The larval colour varies with shades of lime green and pale yellow common but occasionally red.

A black band extending across the dorsal area of the upper body segments is noticeable when the body is stretched.

The single reddy brown tail tuft is most distinctive although may occasionally be absent – see image at foot of page.

The four tussocky dorsal tufts vary from white to brown.

The caterpillars are most commonly come across in late August and September when fully grown and wandering in search of somewhere to pupate.

The caterpillars pupate in leaf litter and overwinter as a cocoon.

Caterpillar identifications

How to rear caterpillars

Pale Tussock 4mm second instar (Calliteara pudibunda)

Pale Tussock  6mm larva  (Calliteara pudibunda)
Pale Tussock moth larva 7mm Calliteara pudibunda  recently moulted

Pale Tussock 10mm larva  (Calliteara pudibunda)Pale Tussock larva  fourth instar (Calliteara pudibunda)Pale Tussock 20mm larva (Calliteara pudibunda)

Pale Tussock caterpillar lacking tail tuft (Calliteara pudibunda)Pale Tussock 38mm larva (Calliteara pudibunda) © 2013 Steve Ogden

Pale Tussock caterpillar green form (Calliteara pudibunda)  © 2006 Steve OgdenPale Tussock 42mm larva (Calliteara pudibunda) © 2009 Steve Ogden

Pale Tussock cocoon  (Calliteara pudibunda)

Recommended reference books

The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles – Jim Porter.

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend and Lewington.

Moths of the British Isles – Bernard Skinnner.

Provisional Atlas of UK’s Larger moths -Randle, Fox and Parsons.