Flannel Moths

Megalopygidae. Spanish: Gusanos pollos (Colombia), plumillas (Puerto Rico, larvae). Portuguese: Lagartas de fogo, lagartas cabeludas, ursos, tatoranas (Brazil, larvae). Tupi-Guaraní: Tatorana, tatá-ranás, sassuranas (larvae). Jívaro: Bayuca (Peru, Ecuador, larvae). Quechua: Cuy (Peru, larvae). Puss caterpillars.

These are stout, small to medium-sized (WS usually 25-35 mm) moths, with long, hairlike pelage of loose, soft scales on the body (Hopp 1935). Their mouthparts are vestigial, and they do not feed.

The larger genera, Podalia and Megalopyge (fig. 10.1 la), are drab brown, but the others, like Trosia, are roseate, yellow, or white with pink, red, or yellow markings.

The larvae are much better known than the adults because of the fiery sting they produce in contact with the skin. They are of two types, one covered densely and completely with long, red, orange, or white flowing hair that almost invites petting (fig. 10.1 lc). But hidden within this soft pelage are rigid, highly toxic nettling bristles. There are six pairs of abdominal legs (on segments 2—7) and an anal pair; legs 2 and 7 have no foot-hooks (crochets). In the sec ond type, only the lateral hairs are long; the dorsal, long hairs are sparse and arise from two parallel rows of wartlike tubercles (fig 10.11b). These are responsible for many cases of caterpillar-caused skin rashes in Latin America. The operculate cocoons are hard and parchmentlike, made of a secretion of the caterpillar mixed with body hairs. They may be grouped in dense single-layered masses on tree trunks and large branches. The larvae may aggregate for pupation, forming a communal cocoon of silk and body hairs.

The adults of some species may have colors and patterns mimicking other insects (Endobrachys revocans and relatives are very similar to the tiger moth, Cratoplastis diluta, and cockroach, Achroblatta luteola).

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