Ceanothus Silkmoth

What is this insect?
January 13, 2010
This bug (moth?) has been on the side of my friends house for a few days. She lives in San Diego County. It’s January.
She says the legs are crab like and it is about the size of her hand.
San Diego, California

Ceanothus Silkmoth
Ceanothus Silkmoth

Dear L,
This is a Ceanothus Silkmoth.  With more Southern California Landscaping being mindful of drought tolerant plants, especially native vegetation, we expect to be getting more reports of sightings of Ceanothus Silkmoths each year.  Your letter does not indicate if your friend lives near any natural open space, as this native moth, which does not feed as an adult and only lives for a few days, long enough to mate.  The Ceanothus Silkmoth develops from a large caterpillar that feed on the leaves of ceanothus, a plant sometimes marketed as California lilac.  BugGuide reports California sightings from March through August, so this January appearance is uncharacteristically early, but it may also be a result of our unseasonal rains this past October.

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