Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern flannel moth, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (15 October 2014).
We’re starting to bag some lovely cold fronts here in central Florida. Of course, in Florida “cold front” doesn’t quite mean the same thing as it means to our brethren to the north. Still, with near-Arctic temperatures reaching all the way down to the upper-50s, it’s time to pull out the socks, blue jeans, and flannel shirts. It’s also time for the flannel moths to show up in our yards (if they haven’t already).
Featured here is a Southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis. A member of Family Megalopygidae, the Flannel moths, this species can be found year-round in Florida, but is most active during the deep summer months through October. Males are more bodily patterned than females; the individual featured here is, I believe, a male.
Interestingly, the Southern flannel moth’s larval-caterpillar form is coated in a thick, wooly fur laced with venomous spines. The spines are so venomous that medical attention may be sought out by the unfortunate soul who decides to pick up the cute, little ball of cottony fur. Personally, I’ve never seen the caterpillar form of this species, though I have seen a handful of adults over the past few years.
This species, the Southern flannel moth, is quite similar in appearance to the generally-lighter Black-waved flannel moth, Lagoa crispata. In fact, I’d originally misidentified this individual, photographed on my home’s external wall on 15 October 2014, as being a Black-waved flannel moth. Genevieve Dutton, an active and robust Florida naturalist I know on Facebook, was quick to point me in the right direction.
People often think of the butterflies as being the more-interesting branch of Order Lepidoptera, but I sometimes think the moth branch is where it’s at. I mean, damn… Look at the brilliant patterning on this Southern flannel moth! What a remarkably beautiful and complex pattern and design…