From the monthly archives: "September 2003"

we found a hickory horned devil lastnight. of course, we had no idea what it was until i found it on your website. what do we do to watch it’s metamorphisis? i have attached a picture.
christina franz
st. louis mo

Hi Christina,
Amazing, we just posted that photograph yesterday. Often with insects as well as other species, sightings appear in swarms because of the life cycles which in isolated populations are obviously in sync with one another. We have already noted that the Hickory Horned Devil is the common name of the caterpillar of the Royal (or Regal) Walnut Moth, names which reveal two of the food sources. Other leaves fed upon by the caterpillar are butternut, ash, persimmon, sweet gum and sumac. The adult moths have mouth parts but probably do not feed. Pupation occurs in the ground, with no cocoon being formed. It seems that this week, mature caterpillars (in fact an oxymoron since the caterpillar is an immature form) have been dropping from their host trees to the ground where they will burrow. This will unfortunately hide the metamorphosis from view. You can try providing the caterpillar with a box of some sort filled with rich earth from the garden that is not packed too tightly. You might also want to cover the ground with leaves. The caterpillar will then burrow and metamorphose into the naked pupa. You will want to keep the box in a protected place where it will not be too warm, but will also not freeze thoroughly. Unfortunately in a box, this might be difficult. It need the winter coolness, but in the wild, the earth only freezes solid for several inches, and the caterpillar has protection from the killing of the freeze. If you aren’t too squeemish, you can refrigerate the box in your kitchen. Then in the warm days of May, you can bring the box out to warm and hopefully your specimen will have survived, escaped the pupa, dug its way to the surface, and transformed into the beautiful adult moth. Lutz quotes Kellogg’s description of the adult as being “a rich brown groundcolor on bod and hind wings, with the fore wings slaty gray with yellow blotches, and veins broadly marked out in red-brown. If you are successful, please send a photo of the adult.


Strange Creature
My husband found this strange creature crawling on our truck under an oak tree. Is it some kind of larva camouflaged as a leaf? It was almost slug-like on its underside (but didn’t seem to be leaving a slimy trail) and had a very strong suction hold to the glass jar I had put it in. It was about 3/4″ in length. The “leaf” part appeared to be very soft/velvety. We live in SE Virginia. Can you help us identify this?

Dear Michelle,
Sometimes called the monkey slug, the full-grown hag moth (Phobetron pithecium) caterpillar is brown, 0.5 inch long, and has nine lateral lobes or processes with urticating (stinging) hairs. Some of these lobes protruding from the sides of the body are longer than others and are occasionally shed. Hag moths caterpillars are present in summer and fall. They produce one generation per year. Host plants include various forest trees and shrubs.
“Phobetron pithecium is called the Hag Moth because the dark brown larva has eight relatively long, fleshy, hairy appendages that cover the back, project from the sides and have a backward twist like locks of disheveled hair. They are, in fact, fleshy hooks covered with feathery, brown hairs among which are longer, black, stinging hairs. the cocoon is almost spherical and is defended by the hairy appendages that the larva in some way contrives to leave on the outside. These tufts give to the bullet-shaped cocoon a nondescript appearance and the stinging hairs afford a very perfect protection against birds and other vertebrates. The adults fly in midsummer. The female is brownish marked with yellow; the male is smaller.” according to Lutz.
Here is a great site with more information on stinging caterpillars.

Found in bathroom and bedroom
My fiance found these while I was at work… And saved them to show me..but I have no idea what they are.. The body is about .50" Picture is taken through a drinking glass. Help us identify this bug. Looks like some kind of overgrown dust mite.

It isn’t a dust mite, but rather a Hemipteran or True Bug. It appears to be a Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus which according to Borror and DeLong in An Introduction to the Study of Insects, is a brownish black bug that is often found in houses; it feeds on bed bugs but will also bite man. It has a habit of accumulating lint on its head, and thus becomes masked."

My Son found this bug in the back yard. It kind of looks like the Coreid Bug or Leaf Footed Bug shown on your web page, but it has an arched back. We seen it on October 11 and we live in South Central Pennsylvania.

You are close. It is a true bug, but not a leaf footed bug. You have found a Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, a member of the Assassin bug family Reduviidae. These are predators that eat other insects, sucking them dry. Some species are able to bite humans with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Many species will inflict a painful bite if carelessly handled. The Wheel Bug gets its name from the semi-circular crest that terminates in spurs and resembles a cogwheel. The species is fairly common.


The doodlebug is the larval form of the Antlion. The doodlebug digs a pit in the sand and waits for ants and other insects to fall into its waiting jaws. The adults are winged. The scientific name of the Family is Myrmeleontidae. There are over 89 North American species, and a common one is Dendroleon obsoletum.

I found this bug out in my yard this morning. It was near my tomato plants. It is a very odd looking thing. If you know what it is could you tell me if it is poisonous. It was thrashing around when I tried to pick it up. It reminded me of a snake. I have small dogs and was scared that they may try to eat it. They try to eat grub worms and I am afraid that they will make them sick. Thanks for your time.
Teresa Causey
Chavies, Kentucky

Dear Teresa,
I’m happy your photo arrived. We just received another siting from a young man who found one in his jeep, but there was no photo, only a verbal description. It is a Hicory Horned Devil, the largest North American caterpillar. It is the larva of the Royal (or Regal) Walnut Moth, Citheronia regalis. The forewings of the moth are olive colored with yellow spots and red veins. The hing wings are orange-red potted with yellow and the body is reddish brown with yellow bands. It is a beautiful moth. The caterpillars, though fearful in appearance, are harmless. They feed principally on Hickory, Walnut and Persimmon.
Ed. note: See next letter