Dragons are huge, fearsome beasts. At least, the mythological creatures of fantasy fiction fame are. Apatelodes torrefacta (common names: spotted apatelodes or dragon moth) only looks fearsome – and only from the back. The moth’s abdomen (the rear part of the critter’s body, in official anotomical terminology) curves up, reminiscent of a dragon’s neck. Its wings are right out of an illustrated story book about knights fighting fire breathing serpents. That, however, is where the illusion ends. The dragon moth is only about an inch and a half in height, width, and length. If its resemblance to dragons isn’t cute enough, hold on, it gets better.
Before A. torrefacta metamorphosizes into a moth, it’s one of the most visually appealing of caterpillars. With long white (or sometimes yellow) soft hair, you can’t help but think of a playful shaggy dog. Or, you would if you didn’t take into consideration the trio of antennae on top. Are they for communicating with the mothership? Or do they sting, as other furry caterpillars with similar pointy appendages are infamously known to do. No, fortunately they do not sting, but their platinum blonde hair may stick to your skin and cause some kind of allergic reaction (in some humans) so don’t touch! The other cool thing about this woolly bear is it has red feet, as seen in the video below.
A. torrefacta inhabits North America from Maine to Texas and from Florida to Wisconsin. Typically brownish, grayish, or almost black, the moths tend to blend in with their surroundings.
In case you were wondering what the moth form of the spotted apatelodes looks like in a mugshot, here it is. The dragon effect or appearance is much harder to see from the front, no?
Species: Apatelodes torrefacta [J. E. Smith, 1797]
“Shaggy Dog Caterpillar – Spotted Apatelodes Moth” (1:49):
“Dragon moth” (0:42):
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