Buck moth

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Buck moth
Hemileuca maia 0014195.jpg
Hemileuca maia male
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.[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] The maia subspecies is listed as endangered in 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. ^ "Card for '''''maia''''' in LepIndex. Accessed 22 September 2007". Internt.nhm.ac.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  2. ^ "Bug Guide for '''''Hemileuca maia''''' Accessed 2008.12.12". Bugguide.net. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  3. ^ "University of Kentucky Entomology page for "Stinging Caterpillars" Accessed 2008.12.12". Ca.uky.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Connecticut's Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species 2015". State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Bureau of Natural Resources. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  5. ^ https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Hemileuca-maia
  6. ^ Auburn University Department of Entomology page for "Buck Moth". Accessed 2008.12.12.
  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. 

External links[edit]

  • Beccaloni, G. W., Scoble, M. J., Robinson, G. S. & Pitkin, B. (Editors). 2003. The Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex). World Wide Web electronic publication. [1] (accessed 22 September 2007).
  • forestpests.org page on Buck moth
  • buck moth on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site