It’s Spring! A Dubious Tiger Moth Spotting

The Shrub

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Snow’ shrub in full bloom  Photo credit:

Spring has sprung, and to celebrate the new season, I recently purchased a new shrub for my

My newly purchased Pieris japonica shrub complete with Dubious Tiger Moth caterpillars.

landscape. This being Pieris japonica ‘Planow’. Its common commercial name is ‘Mountain Snow’ Pieris.  It’s a risky purchase best adapted for zones 4-8….and I reside in zone 9A.  But I thought, why not? Let me explore a new addition to my landscape to see if it offers surprises in store for me. Pieris japonica originates from Eastern China and associates well in acidic soil along with camellias, azaleas, blueberries, and other acid loving plants.

After purchasing it, I neglected to plant it in the landscape for a couple of weeks. Needless-to-say, when I finally got around to planting it, it was laden with 7 caterpillars. Was this a new butterfly bush, I thought?!

Three caterpillars in the Pieris japonica shrub

The Caterpillar

The caterpillar turned out to be the Dubious Tiger Moth (Spilosoma dubi). With the help of Lyle Buss (UF Entomology ID Laboratory), he admitted that he too, had a hungry collection of Tiger Moth caterpillars in his own landscape heavily feeding on his shrubs after falling from the upper oak canopies in his yard.

Dubious Tiger moth was originally described by Francis Walker in 1855 with a span of Southeastern Canada and west to Alberta. Yet it made its way to Florida to establish itself. Ha!

The Dubious Tiger Moth caterpillar (Spilosoma dubi).

What’s funny is that the shrub originated from China and the insect has a record feeding on wild Cherry shrubs and trees (Prunus sp.). Perhaps, like the international Cherry Blossom festivals, this our Florida Cherry blossom pest that we can celebrate each year?  Or not. Gotta love those ‘in store’ surprises. Here’s to looking forward to the Dubious Tiger Moth in May!

For more information check out the links below or contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office.



Posted: March 31, 2022

Category: HOME LANDSCAPES, Horticulture, Pests & Disease
Tags: Caterpillar, Dubious Tiger Moth, Pieris Japonica

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