Thursday, September 13, 2012

Regal Moth or Hickory Horned Devil?

Read the following article by Charlotte Hubbard, a Virginia Master Naturalist with the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter about this amazing visitor.
A spectacular caterpillar!
Check out the large black false eyes
Visitor on my deck…
The photos are of a fearsome looking visitor I found on my deck as I went out to (yet again) sweep away the gum berries that have been raining down for days now.  I will not complain about them again since the gum tree hosts the Regal Moth, Citheronia regalis (Fabricius), and therefore its spectacular caterpillar referred to as the Hickory Horned Devil.

Scary looking enough at rest, when my cat startled the hickory horned devil the caterpillar tucked its head to display its large black false eyes!

According to Donald W. Hall, of the University of Florida “the hickory horned devil is among the largest of our native saturniid caterpillars. It is 12.5 to 14 cm in length - about the size of a large hot dog. The caterpillars vary slightly in color, but are commonly blue-green. The second and third thoracic segments each bear two long and two shorter orange, black-tipped scoli (tubercles in the form of spinose projections of the body wall). The abdominal segments each have four short, black scoli, and segments 2 through 8 have a pale, oblique lateral stripe. Although the larva has a fierce appearance, it is harmless.

The (adult) regal moth has a wingspan of 9.5 to 15.5 cm. Females are larger than males. The forewings are gray to gray-green with orange veins and a row of seven to nine yellow spots near the distal margin. There also are single yellow discal and basal spots. The hind wing is mostly orange with a basal yellow spot and yellow patches (or spots) on the costal and anal margins. The hind wing may also have one to two rows of gray-green spots. The body is orange with narrow yellow banding.” Info from here.

Learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist Program here, there is probably a chapter near you!

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