Ranchman’s Tiger Moth

Leonard and I again hiked Elkins #2 Loop in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA) trying to photograph a sora, a secretive bird that thus far has eluded my camera. We heard many sora and saw two fly briefly. But a couple seconds was not enough to even lift my camera let alone focus. Foiled again!

We did see a ranchman’s tiger moth (Platyprepia virginalis). This moth is a generalist and feeds on a variety of herbs and grasses. Adult ranchman’s tiger moths are on the wing in summer. By fall caterpillars (larvae) have hatched from the eggs. Overwintering, the caterpillars’ development is completed by June.

Adult ranchman’s tiger moths have black forewings with many large roundish pale yellow to off-white spots. The hindwings are variable. Some are orange with black bands. In other specimens the bands are large and fused, presenting an appearance of a black hindwing with orange spots. The abdomen is orange with black spots. Like with the hindwings, the black spots can be fused to heavily mark some individuals making the abdomen appear almost totally black. The antennae are black.

Ranchman’s tiger moth caterpillars have orange hairs on the anterior and posterior ends. The middle portion of the body is black with long white hairs.

The Platyprepia genus has only one species, virginalis – the ranchman’s tiger moth. It can be found in western North America from Monterrey Bay CA across Nevada, Utah and Colorado north to southern British Columbia. The ranchman’s tiger moth habitat includes wet lowland prairies, wet meadows, wet forests and riparian zones in dry desert regions.

Now if I can only get that sora picture. . .

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3 Responses to Ranchman’s Tiger Moth

  1. Glad to learn about the Ranchman tiger moth – bold colouration there. Good luck with hunting down your sora shot.

  2. Lin Erickson says:

    Beautiful !!!

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