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Hypercompe scribonia (Lepidoptera: Erebidae)

Late instar giant woolly bear, Hypercompe scribonia Rachael Carter ©2020, Clemson Extension

Late instar giant woolly bear, Hypercompe scribonia
Rachael Carter ©2020, Clemson Extension

Hypercompe scribonia (Lepidoptera: Erebidae) is found throughout the Eastern United States. Larvae feed on a variety of broadleaf plants, including, but not limited to Bougainvillea, citrus, various brassicas, and Prunus species.

Late instar caterpillars, such as the one pictured here, are:

  • about 3 inches long
  • black with red inter-segmental rings and spiracles
  • covered with shiny black, stiff setae (hairs)

Although the giant woolly bear is covered in bristly setae, it is not a stinging caterpillar. When disturbed, Hypercompe scribonia curl up tightly as a defense and stay rolled up until left alone.

Late instar Hypercompe scribonia overwinter as caterpillars and complete development in spring. Giant woolly bears (larvae) become giant leopard moths (adults). Giant leopard moth is the largest eastern tiger moth.

Adult giant leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia Vicky Bertagnolli ©2020, Clemson Extension

Adult giant leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia
Vicky Bertagnolli ©2020, Clemson Extension

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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