Identify It > Moth Section > Puss Moths >
Scientific name: Cerura vinula
Size: Wingspan approximately 65 to 80mm
Distribution: Found throughout the U.K.
Months seen: May to July
Habitat: Woods, parks and gardens
Food: Caterpillars feed on willows and poplars
Special features: The puss moth is a creamy-white or greyish-white moth with lovely grey marbled markings. The abdomen features black and white stripes. The name comes from the cat-like fur all over the body.
The puss moth caterpillar has a green body with a black or brown 'saddle' on its back, which is bordered in white. There can be variations in the colour of the 'saddle' although the white lines are always present. The head has a bright orange ring around it with two false black eyes. Just prior to pupation most of the body turns orange and then purple but the white lines remain.
The rear legs have developed into long whip-like appendages which it flails around when in danger. As an extra defense it can spray formic acid from a gland just below its head.
The puss moth caterpillar overwinters on tree trunks, or wooden posts, inside a tough cocoon which resembles a limpet shell, and is reinforced with vegetation.
NOTE: North America also has a moth commonly known as a Puss Moth (Megalopyge opercularis) but this is a totally different species. The caterpillars of that moth are covered in hairs which conceal toxic spines. The spines can give a very painful sting.