Currently viewing the category: "Hickory Horned Devil"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Very hungry caterpillar
Location: Deltaville, VA (Tidewater)
July 16, 2015 8:38 am
At first we thought this caterpillar was a tomato or tobacco hornworm, but it was too spiky. We found it in an open field, mid-morning on a 75* day in July. The property is on the middle peninsula of Virginia. We’re surrounded by brackish water (Chesapeake bay watershed), but there are many farms (mostly corn) in the area.
Signature: Kelli

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Dear Kelli,
Though there is no shortage on our site, we are thrilled to be able to create a new posting of the first Hickory Horned Devil of the year.  Each summer we get numerous identification requests for the largest, and arguably most distinctive looking North American caterpillar.  Despite its fierce appearance, the Hickory Horned Devil is perfectly harmless.  Hickory Horned Devils rarely leave the host trees (hickory, walnut and other trees) where they are feeding on leaves, but this large specimen is getting ready to pupate.  It will seek a location with favorable conditions and it will bury itself before metamorphosing into a naked pupa that will pass the winter with the adult Royal Walnut Moth emerging the following year. 

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Kingson Mendoza Maqui, Rachel Laurelle Owens, Norman Gems, Suzanne Stewart, Joani Tompkins, Mary Lemmink Lawrence, Mary Sheridan Page Fatzinger, Heather Duggan-Christensen, Sergio Vicente Naguiat liked this post
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Unidentified caterpillar
Location: West Virginia
April 25, 2015 3:51 am
This photo is a year or two old. It was an aggressive caterpillar that raised sex black horns when the branch he was on moved, so I’d call it defensive or aggressive.
Signature: Vanna

Hickory Horned Devil Hatchling

Hickory Horned Devil Hatchling

Hi Vanna,
Though your image is quite blurry, the shape of this caterpillar is quite distinctive.  We are guessing it was quite small and probably found in late spring.  We believe this is a Hickory Horned Devil hatchling,
Citheronia regalis, and you can compare your image to this image on BugGuide.  Most submissions that we receive of Hickory Horned Devils arrive toward the end of summer and they are of mature caterpillars that leave the trees they are feeding upon in search of an appropriate location to dig and pupateHickory Horned Devils are the largest North American caterpillars, and despite a fierce appearance, they are perfectly harmless.  Eventually a Hickory Horned Devil will metamorphose into the gorgeous Royal Walnut Moth or Regal Moth.

Mary Lemmink Lawrence, Jess Huggins, Andrea Leonard Drummond liked this post
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Not a clue what it is.

Location: Natural Bridge, VA
September 24, 2014 4:06 pm
Our family found this “caterpillar” walking across a trail near the Natural Bridge in Virginia. We don’t know what it is. It’s about 5 1/2 half inches long and as big around as a grown man’s thumb.
Signature: VS

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Dear VS,
The Hickory Horned Devil is the largest North American Caterpillar.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Bug
Location: West Viriginia
September 20, 2014 11:42 am
I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of bug this is. Found it crawling out of the ground. Can you help me. Please and thank you.
Signature: Bobbi

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Hi Bobbi,
This is a Hickory Horned Devil, the largest North American Caterpillar, and despite its fearsome appearance, it is perfectly harmless as it neither stings nor bites, and it is not venomous or poisonous.  We typically receive numerous reports of sightings in the late summer and early fall, but this year we have received very few reports.  Since this individual was on the ground, we assume it was searching for a likely spot to dig beneath the surface to begin pupation.  The adult Hickory Horned Devil is the spectacular Royal Walnut Moth.

Thank you for the information. I was wondering because my husband and a couple of his friends found it. And they touched it so we was hoping it wasn’t poisonous. Will they live if it had been moved. They didn’t want to kill it and it was near a dead tree they was cutting on.

Your husband and his friends will live.  Relocating the Hickory Horned Devil should not have a negative impact on its survival.

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: What is this
Location: Charlotte, NC
September 6, 2014 8:55 am
Found this caterpillar near my oak tree. It is as round as my thumb which is a size 8 and about 3″ long or more. The photo in Mason jar does not give it justice. I have mist grass and leaves in the jar. Small eggs are on it.
Signature: PG Forney

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Dear PG Forney,
Had you captured a less distinctive caterpillar, attempting an identification through this distorted glass bottle probably would have been impossible, but the red horns of this Hickory Horned Devil are clearly visible.  Hickory Horned Devils ” feed on leaves of ash, burning bush, butternut, cotton, gum, hickory, lilac, pecan, persimmon, sumac, sycamore, and walnut” according to BugGuide, so unless you add some of those to the jar instead of the grass, it will surely starve unless it is preparing to pupate.  Often caterpillars leave the plants they are feeding upon when the time for metamorphosis nears.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Is This Thing from Narnia
Location: Raleigh, NC
August 31, 2013 8:42 am
We found this bug just crawling around near our house in the grass. It looks like it could be some type of catepillar but it’s HUGE. Help?!
Signature: Freaked Out Dude

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil

Dear Freaked Out Dude,
Your photo of a Hickory Horned Devil is awesome.  This is the largest caterpillar in North America.  It feeds on the leaves of hickory, walnut and several other native trees.  The caterpillars are rarely noticed until late in the summer when they leave the trees they are feeding upon and find a suitable place on the ground to dig and pupate.  In the spring, they emerge as adult Royal Walnut Moths.  Some of our readers have compared Hickory Horned Devils to colorful Chinese dragons.  They are perfectly harmless, despite the fearsome appearance.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination