Buck moth

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Buck moth
Hemileuca maia 0014195.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Saturniidae
Genus: Hemileuca
Species: H. maia
Binomial name
Hemileuca maia
Drury, 1773

The buck moth (Hemileuca maia)[1] is a common insect found in oak forests, stretching in the United States from the southeast to the northeast and as far west as Texas and Kansas. It was first described by Dru Drury in 1773.[2] The larvae typically emerge in a single generation in the spring. The larvae are covered in hollow spines that are attached to a poison sac. The poison can cause symptoms ranging from itching and burning sensations to nausea.[3] Subspecies Hemileuca maia maia is listed as endangered in the US state of Connecticut.[4]

The larvae feed on various oaks including scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), live oak (Quercus virginiana), blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), and dwarf chestnut oak (Quercus prinoides).[5]

Mature larvae enter the soil to pupate in late June and emerge between October and December as moths to mate and lay eggs. Eggs are typically laid in spiral clusters on oak twigs.[6] In Louisiana, particularly in cities such as Baton Rouge or New Orleans, where use of live oaks as street trees is extensive, the caterpillars can become a significant nuisance for humans.[7] The caterpillars of this moth can also be found in some areas of Virginia, such as the Goshen Scout Reservation, where they are infamous for stinging people going to a summer camp in the area.


The buck moth is in family Saturniidae and genus Hemileuca. There are 33 known species in genus Hemileuca. Due to similarities in larval characteristics, adult phenotype and food sources, several groups have been formed within the genus. H. maia is member of the maia group of genus Hemileuca.

There are four species in the maia group of genus Hemileuca:[8]


  1. ^ Beccaloni, G.; Scoble, M.; Kitching, I.; Simonsen, T.; Robinson, G.; Pitkin, B.; Hine, A.; Lyal, C., eds. (2003). "Hemileuca maia". The Global Lepidoptera Names Index. Natural History Museum. Retrieved April 27, 2018. 
  2. ^ Bartlett, Troy (October 24, 2015). "Species Hemileuca maia - Buck Moth - Hodges#7730". BugGuide.Net. Retrieved April 27, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Stinging Caterpillars". University of Kentucky. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Connecticut's Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species 2015". State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Bureau of Natural Resources. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  5. ^ Eastern buckmoth Hemileuca maia (Drury, 1773). Butterflies and Moths of North America. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  6. ^ "Buck Moth". Entomology and Plant Pathology. Auburn University College of Agriculture. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "Louisiana Insect Pest 2012 Management Guide" (PDF). 2012. 
  8. ^ Tuskes, Paul; Tuttles, James; Collins, Michael (1996). The Wild Silk Moths of North America: A Natural History of the Saturniidae of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801431301. 

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