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Feature Creature - Puss Moth

Puss Moth Puss Moth Credits: Andy Phillips (Flickr)

What do you get if you cross a moth with a cat?  That's right, you get a Puss Moth! 


It might seem strange, but puss moths actually are called puss moths because of their similarity to cats.  Yes its true, they're just like them..... well, ok, they don’t go ‘miaow’ or sit on your knee to be stroked, they probably don't drink milk, and I’m pretty sure they don’t use cat flaps, but they are covered in lovely soft fur, just like cat fur, and this is where they get their name from.


CaterpillarsPuss Moth Caterpillar


Like all moths and butterflies, Puss moths begin life as caterpillars.  But unlike the moths, the caterpillars aren’t furry.  Instead, they are big and fat and green, and they have a reddish circle around their heads, with two fake eyes at the top of it.  At the other end of their bodies they have two long spikes, like a double tail, which they wave around when they are under threat to scare off their attackers.  They can even squirt out formic acid from their bodies to try to protect themselves from attack. 



All the colours of the rainbow?


Before spinning a cocoon and turning into a moth, puss moth caterpillars first change colour from green to orange and then to purple!  The cocoons that they spin are pretty special too because they are hard, and look very like a limpet shell clinging onto a tree.  In fact the Puss moth cocoon is one of the hardest cocoons created by any of the UK moths.



Where to find them


You can find Puss moths all over the UK in woods, parks and gardens where they like to eat leaves from willow and poplar trees.  Look for them from May to July.  Puss moths are white with grey markings and are quite big with a wingspan of 6 ½ to 8cm.  They fly at night.  



Read about other feature creatures


Visit the species page for the puss moth


Article by Sadie McGlone

Photo credit: Puss Moth Caterpillar (c) Margaret Holland   Puss Moth (c) Andy Phillips Flickr