While hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore, I came across a few of these really cool looking caterpillars. The Garden Tiger Moth lives in the northern United States, Canada and Europe.
Like the Woolly Bear (the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth) from my home state of Ohio, this “punk rock” looking caterpillar prefers cool climates with temperate seasonality, since they overwinter.
Tiger Moths tend to have conspicuous patterns on their wings that serve as a warning to predators, indicating the moth’s poisonous body fluids. Its caterpillar’s hairs act as a deterrent to birds and provide some protection against parasitic flies and wasps.
This species resides in a number of habitats, including gardens, damp meadows, fens, riverbanks, sand dunes and open woodland. Because of the caterpillar’s generalist diet, it is not constrained to where it lives by needing a specific host plant.
Like other Tiger Moths, the adult Garden Tiger Moth exudes a yellow smelly liquid from a gland at the back of its head as a deterrent to predators. This insect’s bold colors are ideal for frightening predators – as the moth normally hides its hindwings under its less colorful forewings when resting.