Biology and Management of the Buck Moth, Hemileuca maia (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae)

Timothy Schowalter, Ring, Dennis R.  |  2/6/2017 9:16:20 PM

Schowalter, T.D. and D.R. Ring. 2017. Biology and management of the buck moth, Hemileuca maia (Drury) (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae). Journal of Integrated Pest Management 8(1): 4.

The genus Hemileuca Walker (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) is widespread across North America, with about 20 species, including the buck moth, Hemileuca maia (Drury). This species is important as a periodic defoliator in oak forests of the eastern United States but is not considered to be destructive to forest resources. Buck moth populations are regulated naturally by environmental factors, particularly foliage quality, predators, parasitoids, and pathogens. The buck moth has become a species of conservation concern in northern states, where it is threatened by habitat loss, fire suppression and other anthropogenic changes in habitat conditions, and perhaps by parasitoids introduced to control invasive Lepidoptera. In the South, the buck moth caterpillars attract attention because the urticating spines of its larvae cause painful stings that often require first-aid advice. Although considered a nuisance in urban areas, this insect generally is not sufficiently abundant to warrant specific control measures. If control is warranted, several biological and insecticidal options are available.

The buck moth is typical of univoltine, tree-feeding saturniids. However, unlike most saturniids, the buck moth often attracts attention during localized outbreaks and in urban areas, primarily as a result of stings, which is why it if often referred to as a stinging caterpillar. Foliage quality and mortality agents are apparently the primary factors regulating buck moth populations, although abiotic variables, such as temperature and photoperiod, also are important (Foil et al. 1991, Hoven 2009). Mating and reproduction require conditions favorable to pheromone communication.

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