It is estimated there are over 11,000 described tiger moth species worldwide. These moths are well known for their bright coloration, mimicry, and sophisticated defensive strategies. Many tiger moths feed on toxic plants and lichens as larvae (and in some cases, adults) in order to gain chemical protection against vertebrate predators. Some species use these toxic compounds for both defense and to attract and protect their mates. Other tiger moth species use sound production to ward off attackers – in some cases, jamming bat echolocation to avoid being eaten!
The MPM Invertebrate Zoology collection houses thousands of tiger moths from all over the world. Tiger moths also comprise a significant portion of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s famous Paulo Gagarin collection of butterflies and moths. Gagarin’s material originated from the biologically diverse Mata Atlantica of eastern Brazil. Over 90% of the habitat in this region has been lost due to deforestation and land use, thus, many of the MPM’s Gagarin moth specimens are considered rare and irreplaceable.