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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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.

WOW! THANKS FOR THE QUICK RESPONSE..WE WILL DO OUR BEST TO KEEP IT ALIVE!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi,
My son came in with a huge green caterpillar with big orange horns last night. It was probably 5-6 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. It extended across his hand. Looked like one of those chinese dragons.
He had been out in his jeep earlier and thought some how it had gotten in the car, for later when he was standing by the car, it crawled across his foot. We have never seen anything like it. Do you have any ideas?
Thank you, J.Hansel

Dear J.
It is the caterpillar of the Royal Walnut Moth,Citheronia regalis, which has the largest caterpillar in North America. The caterpillar, which your son found goes by the common name of Hickory Horned Devil. Please send a photo, we would love to have it. The moth is also quite beautiful. It has olive colored upper wings with red veins and yellow spots, orange red hind wings with yellow spots, and a reddish body with yellow bands.

Thank you for the quick answer. We took it to the zoo and found out you are correct. Such a thrill to see it. A couple of years ago I had a similar thrill I could share with the grandchildren. I captured a huge moth that was a big as my husbands hand. It was a soft tan color with pink designs in the wings. When I let it fly it looked like a bird going over the house. I remember looking it up but I forgot what I found . I feel the Lord truly blesses us when we see these things up close in their own environment. You know that you will never have the same experience again. Thank you for your help, Judy Hansel
P.S. I did get pictures with my new digital camera. When I learn how to send it I will send you the picture.

I’m glad we could be helpful Judy,
Don’t forget to send the photos when you have a chance. We would love to post one with your letter. The moth you found years ago is a member of the family Saturnidae, the giant silk moths. Based on your color description, I would guess probably an Ailanthus Silk Moth, though it could also be a Cecropia.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Caterpillars Second submission, once again from Hickory, NC. These caterpillars were all over town a week ago, but now they seem to either died or cocooned. Please identify and provide some background. Thanks!
Gene Annas

Hi Gene,
The website Caterpillars of Eastern Forests has a photo which identifies your caterpillar as an Orange-striped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria). The site says it is: “Charcoal black with orange-yellow stripes that fade appreciably in prepupal individuals. Head black. Second thoracic segment with long, black spinulose horns. Abdominal spines relatively small. Gregarious in early instars, then solitary. Occasionally reaches outbreak densities. One related species occurs in southern Ontario, and another in Florida and Georgia. Food: oaks and chestnuts. Caterpillar: August to October; 1 generation.” The adult moth is a pretty orange color.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination