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Species Estigmene acrea - Salt Marsh Moth - Hodges#8131

Yellow Bear - Estigmene acrea Salt Marsh Moth - Estigmene acrea - male Salt Marsh, Twenty-two days after finding it. - Estigmene acrea caterpillar - Estigmene acrea Caterpillar  - Estigmene acrea Erebidae: Estigmene acrea - Estigmene acrea Caterpillar 062813 - Estigmene acrea caterpillar - Estigmene acrea
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger and Lichen Moths)
Tribe Arctiini (Tiger Moths)
Subtribe Spilosomina
Genus Estigmene
Species acrea (Salt Marsh Moth - Hodges#8131)
Hodges Number
Other Common Names
Salt Marsh Caterpillar (larva), Salt Marsh Caterpillar Moth (adult), Salt Marsh Tiger (adult)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Estigmene acrea (Drury, 1773)
Phalaena acrea Drury, 1773
* phylogenetic sequence #930317
one of 2 species in this genus in North America (2nd sp. restricted to AZ)
wingspan 45-68 mm
larvae length to 55 mm
Adult (imago): forewing white with about 20 small black spots scattered across the disk, and 5 larger black spots spaced along the costa. Males have dark yellow hindwings, those of females are mostly white (with 3 or 4 black blotches in both sexes).
Larva (caterpillar): highly variable, blond to brown to black, with long bristly hairs standing upright in dense tufts from orange or black tubercles; hairs longer at both ends of body, especially toward the rear end. Spiracles white. Moves very rapidly. Face mainly black with yellow down the center.
Ova (egg): spherical and yellow (1)
all of North America except Alaska and Yukon - Map (MPG)
open wooded areas, meadows, farm fields, weedy waste places, prairie grasslands, and marshes - including salt marshes; adults are nocturnal and come to light
Adults fly from May to September. Adults fly year round in Texas
Larvae feed on a wide variety of mainly weedy plants including pigweed (Amaranthus spp.), anglepod (Gonolobus spp.), Sicklepod (Cassia tora), Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), ground cherry (Physalis spp.), and mallow (Anoda spp.), plus crops such as alfalfa, asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, clover, corn, cotton, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, soybean, sugarbeet, tobacco, tomato, and turnip. On rare occasions, they also feed on leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs: alder, apple, cherry, elderberry, pear, poplar, and serviceberry, according to Handfield.
Life Cycle
One generation per year in the far north, 2 in southern Quebec and Ontario, 3 or 4 generations in the south. Overwinters as a pupa in a spacious cocoon; adults emerge in early spring. Females lay 400-1200 eggs in clusters on leaves of host; eggs hatch in 4-5 days, and larvae pass through 5 instars over a period of 20-45 days; larvae are active dispersers, and are often found wandering over the soil in search of suitable food.

Life cycle images:
1.larvae on Cup Plant 2.larva 3.different stage larvae
When disturbed the adults often drop to the ground, raise their wings, and emit an acrid odor from the prothoratic glands. Males (yellow hindwing) have inflatable appendages called coremata that will extend from the abdomen when gently squeezed. In Arizona, the most common fly parasites of eggs and larva are E. mella, Gymnocarcelia ricinorum and Lespesia archippivora
See Also
Estigmene albida which has smaller and fewer black spots on the wings, and a more southern distribution (e.g. doesn't occur in Canada) - see pinned adult image by Bruce Walsh from Arizona.
Larvae of Virginian Tiger Moth are somewhat similar in some color forms, but seem to lack black facial markings, at least in BugGuide examples.
Print References
Covell, adult, p. 66, plate 13 #13,16) (2)
Wright, caterpillar and adult, pp. 98-99 (3)
Himmelman, caterpillar, plate A-2 (4)
Wagner, caterpillar, p. 464 (5)
Handfield, adult males, plate 60 #8131-1,2,3; adult female, plate 61 #8131-4; text, pp. 291-292 (6)
Powell, J. A. & P. A. Opler, Moths of Western North America, Pl. 47.19m, 47.22f; p. 269(7)
Internet References
Univ. FL Extension excellent account with photos of all life stages, description of life history, host plants, damage, natural enemies, references (John Capinera, U. of Florida)
pinned adult image plus common name reference [Salt March Tiger], habitat, flight season, description, foodplants, distribution (Strickland Entomological Museum, U. of Alberta)
Maryland Moths adult images (Larry Line, Maryland)
Georgia Leps live larva image (James Adams, Dalton State College, Georgia)
Dallas Butterflies pinned adult images of male and female, plus foodplants (Dale Clark, Texas)
Forestry Images links to images of larvae (
Lepidoptera of East Tennessee live adult image of male (Dean Edwards, Tennessee)
common name reference [Salt Marsh Caterpillar] plus foodplants and flight season (Ohio State U.)
foodplants; PDF doc plus flight season and life cycles (Macrolepidoptera of Mont Saint-Hilaire Region, McGill U., Quebec)
distribution in Canada list of provinces and territories (U. of Alberta, using CBIF data)
Works Cited
1.Tiger Moths and Woolly Bears: behavior, ecology, and evolution of the Arctiidae.
William E. Conner (ed.). 2009. Oxford University Press.
2.Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
Charles V. Covell, Jr. 2005.
3.Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America
Amy Bartlett Wright. 1998. Houghton Mifflin Company.
4.Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard
John Himmelman. 2002. Down East Books.
5.Caterpillars of Eastern North America
David L. Wagner. 2005. Princeton University Press.
6.Les Guides des Papillons du Quebec
Louis Handfield. 1999. Broquet.
7.Moths of Western North America
Powell and Opler. 2009. UC Press.