Moths of North Carolina
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6 NC Records

Orgyia antiqua (Linnaeus, 1758) - Rusty Tussock Moth

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: LymantriinaeTribe: OrgyiiniP3 Number: 930160.00 MONA Number: 8308.00
Comments: One of ten species in this genus that occur in North America, four of which have been recorded in North Carolina. The subspecies in our area is most likely O. a. nova, which is found over most of North America other than the Pacific Northwest and Alaska (Ferguson, 1978).
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Ferguson (1978)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Ferguson (1978); Wagner (2005)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Males are a rusty chocolate brown on the forewings, with a well-developed, contrasting white tornal spot. The hindwings are a brighter rusty brown. Females have only rudimentary wings, similar to the females of Phigalia species.
Adult Structural Features: Orgyia species have a single dorsal tuft on their abdomens, whereas Dasychira have two. Adults lack functional mouthparts. Female antiqua can be distinguished by the broader pectinations of their antennae -- about twice as wide as the width of the shaft -- than found in the other species of Orgyia (Ferguson, 1978).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae of this species are among the most gaudy of our caterpillars. The body is black with red warts and spots and four dorsal tufts that are white or tan. Both anterior and posterior hair pencils are present, consisting of long plumose setae that are expanded at their tips. In addition, two lateral hair pencils are present, one composed of white hair extending out from the thorax and an adjacent one of black projecting from the first abdominal segment (Ferguson, 1978; Wagner, 2005).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Restricted to the High Mountains where it may be a Pleistocene relict.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

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Immature Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Unknown in North Carolina where we only have a few larval records.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The North Carolina specimens come from high elevations along the Blue Ridge.
Larval Host Plants: Polyphagous, feeding on a wide variety of both conifers and deciduous trees and shrubs. Ferguson (1978) notes the following among the most commonly reported: Fir, Spruce, Pine, Hemlock, Birch, Alder, Willow, Poplar, Maple, Elm, Apple, and Cherry.
Observation Methods: Females lack wings and males fly primarily in the daytime; although they have been occasionally found at night (Ferguson, 1978), sampling using lights or bait is probably ineffective. Males should be looked for flying in appropriate habitats.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S1S2
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare by the Natural Heritage Program. That designation, however, does not confer any legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: With only our three larval records for this species south of New York (one confirmed by Wagner, 2005), this species would appear to be an extremely rare disjunct from the far North. Apart from elevation, however, habitats do not appear to be a major limiting factor. The fact that males are primarily day-flying may have allowed them to be overlooked, particularly in surveys aimed specifically at moths, most of which rely on light trapping at night. Although there is much to be learned about the distribution, abundance, and habitat association for this species in North Carolina, it currently appears to be one of our rarest and most unexpected species. Like other disjuncts from the North, it may also be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

 Photo Gallery for Orgyia antiqua - Rusty Tussock Moth

Photos: 5

Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2021-07-03
Transylvania Co.
Recorded by: David L. Heavner on 2019-08-21
Jackson Co.
Recorded by: Dave Fairall on 2015-08-15
Haywood Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2010-08-07
Haywood Co.
Recorded by: Jodi Casher on 2009-08-27
Haywood Co.
Comment: Identity confirmed by D. Wagner