Pine Devil Moth: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

The Pine Devil Moth is a fascinating insect that piques the interest of entomologists and nature enthusiasts alike. Found primarily in North America, these moths are known for their unique appearance and role they play in the ecosystem.

As caterpillars, Pine Devil Moths feed on a variety of pine trees and can cause damage to the foliage. However, the adult moths are harmless and play a significant role in pollination. Understanding the Pine Devil Moth’s life cycle, habitat, and behavior can help to develop a greater appreciation for this captivating creature.

Pine Devil Moth Basics

Citheronia Sepulcralis Characteristics

Citheronia sepulcralis, commonly known as the Pine Devil Moth, is a unique species of moth. Some of its features include:

  • Wingspan: Ranging from 3 to 4 inches
  • Color: Light gray with distinctive markings

Adult Pine Devil Moths are relatively large moths, easily recognized by their impressive size and wing patterns. They’re found in areas with abundant pine trees, as their larvae feed on pine needles.

Identification of Adult Moths

Identifying a Pine Devil Moth is relatively straightforward, especially if you’re familiar with their key characteristics. Here’s a brief comparison of the Pine Devil Moth and a generic moth:

Feature Pine Devil Moth Generic Moth
Wingspan 3 to 4 inches Varies
Color Light gray Varies
Feeding habits Larvae eat pine needles Caterpillars eat various plants

To identify a Pine Devil Moth, look for large gray moths with a wingspan of 3 to 4 inches. Their coloration is typically light gray and may have distinctive markings on the wings. Additionally, they are found in pine-rich environments where their larvae rely on pine needles as their primary food source.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Eggs

The Pine Devil Moth begins its life cycle as eggs laid by the adult female moths. Some features of these eggs include:

  • Small size
  • Laid on host plants

Caterpillars

The eggs hatch into caterpillars (larvae stage), which are responsible for feeding on the host plant. Key characteristics of Pine Devil Moth caterpillars are:

  • Yellowish-white color
  • Long and legless

During this stage, the caterpillars grow and molt until they are ready to pupate.

Pupation

When the caterpillars have reached their maximum size, they enter the pupation stage. During this time, they:

  • Create protective cocoons
  • Transform into the adult moth form

Pine Devil Moths often overwinter in the pupation stage.

Adult Moth Stage

Once the adult moths emerge, they:

  • Possess wings for flight
  • Seek mates to reproduce

The adult moths have a relatively short life span, during which they lay eggs and complete the life cycle.

Habitat and Distribution

The Pine Devil Moth is found in various regions across the United States and Canada. Its habitat primarily consists of pine forests, where its larvae feed on Pinus species.

In the US, the moth’s range spans from Louisiana and Florida in the south, up to Maine in the northeast. In Canada, it has been reported in provinces with abundant pine trees.

Pine Devil Moth’s preferred habitats include:

  • Pine forests
  • Mixed woods with pine trees
  • Pine tree plantations

Among different pine species, the moth’s larvae particularly enjoy feeding on:

  • Loblolly Pine
  • Shortleaf Pine
  • Slash Pine

Key factors affecting Pine Devil Moth distribution:

  • Availability of suitable host pines
  • Climate
  • Regional forest management practices

Compared to other moths, such as the Zimmerman Pine Moth and the Southwestern Pine Tip Moth, the Pine Devil Moth has a more limited range in terms of habitat and distribution. The Zimmerman Pine Moth, for instance, has been reported in 23 states, while the Southwestern Pine Tip Moth is prevalent in the southern United States and California.

Moth Species Pine Devil Moth Zimmerman Pine Moth Southwestern Pine Tip Moth
Distribution Range more limited 23 states southern US & California
Preferred habitat pine forests pine forests pine forests
Affected pine species 3 types multiple multiple

Pine Devil Interaction with Pine Trees

Feeding on Pine Trees

The Pine Devil moth, a member of the family Saturniidae and subfamily Ceratocampinae, feeds on pine trees during its larval stage. The larvae, known as caterpillars, primarily consume the needles of various pine species. Some examples of pine trees that these insects might feed on include:

  • White Pine
  • Scots Pine
  • Red Pine

Damage and Management of Pine Moths

Pine Devil moths can cause significant damage to pine trees, as their feeding habits can weaken the trees and stunt their growth. They often feed on the buds and young needles, affecting the tree’s ability to photosynthesize and produce new growth. Other pine moths like the Zimmerman Pine Moth also cause damage to pine trees.

To manage Pine Devil moths, it’s essential to observe and understand their lifecycle and feeding habits. Here’s a brief comparison of the Pine Devil moth and Zimmerman Pine Moth:

Moth Species Lifecycle Stage Feeding Habits
Pine Devil Moth Larval (Caterpillar) Feeds on needles and buds of pine trees
Zimmerman Pine Moth Larval (Caterpillar) Bores into the trunk and branches

Some management techniques for these moths include:

  • Regularly inspecting trees for signs of feeding damage
  • Removing and disposing of infested branches or trees
  • Using insecticides or biological controls when necessary

Overall, Pine Devil moths and other pine moths can significantly impact the health of pine trees. By monitoring and managing these pests, it’s possible to keep them under control and protect your trees from their harmful feeding habits.

Conservation, Threats, and Management Needs

The Pine Devil Moth is an insect species that requires attention in terms of conservation and management. Some factors threatening this species include habitat loss, climate change, and human interference. Efforts must be made to maintain their natural environments and protect them from factors causing vulnerability.

For successful conservation, proper management practices should be implemented. This may involve monitoring the moth population and their habitat conditions. Additionally, public awareness could be essential to involve local communities in conservation.

In terms of managing threats, insecticides should be used cautiously. Overuse or misapplication might harm non-target species like the Pine Devil Moth.

  • Conservation efforts: maintain habitats, monitor conditions
  • Threats: habitat loss, climate change, human interference
  • Management needs: population monitoring, public awareness, responsible use of insecticides

A comparison of conservation approaches is helpful to understand the optimal methods:

Method Pros Cons
Monitoring Effective in tracking populations Requires resources
Public awareness Increases local involvement Limited reach
Insecticide use Can protect target species Might harm non-target species

Ultimately, Pine Devil Moth conservation requires a balance of various approaches that focus on promoting a healthy ecosystem while protecting this unique and vulnerable insect.

Photos, Guides, and Resources

BugGuide

The BugGuide offers valuable information, including photos and identification guides for the Pine Devil Moth (Citheronia sepulcralis). Visiting BugGuide can help you:

  • View photographs of the Pine Devil Moth in various life stages
  • Understand its characteristics and features
  • Access experts to ask questions about the moth

Taxonomy and Systematics

Pine Devil Moths are part of the order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths. They belong to the family Saturniidae, known for their large size, vivid colors, and unique patterns. Here is a breakdown of the taxa for the Pine Devil Moth:

  • Class: Insecta (insects)
  • Subclass: Pterygota (winged insects)
  • Infraclass: Neoptera (modern, folding-wing insects)
  • Order: Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies)
  • Family: Saturniidae (giant silk moths)
  • Species: Citheronia sepulcralis (Pine Devil Moth)

The Pine Devil Moth is assigned to the Hodges #7708 in the taxonomic system. This numbering system is used by entomologists to catalog and organize arthropods.

When studying Pine Devil Moth, it’s essential to keep in mind:

  • Taxonomy can change over time as new information becomes available
  • Comparing Pine Devil Moth to other arthropods and hexapods can help deepen understanding of their features and classification
  • Resources like BugGuide can offer detailed information and images of Pine Devil Moth, aiding identification and research

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Another Devil!

 

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!

Letter 2 – Correction: Pine Devil

 

can you identify ?
About 3 inches found in my backyard. Reddish brown thick. Six horns in front and one at end.Thank you P.S I looked everywhere online and couldn’t find it. We live in North Carolina

We are guessing that this Hickory Horned Devil is brown instead of the usual blue-green color because it is ready for pupation.

Correction (09/02/2007) Misidentification
Hey there,
I was cruising your site and noticed that you had misidentified a prepupal caterpillar posted on 9/1/07. You identified it as C.regalis that was brown because it was ready to pupate. C. regalis turn an aqua color when prepupal, but there is another Citheronia species in the area, C. sepulcralis . This the prepupal larva of the Pine Devil Moth. Its coloration and markings, or lack thereof, are right and the species becomes increasingly more common towards the south-east where they can have 2 or more broods per year. I hope that this info helps anyone else that might come across a Pine Devil on one of their pine trees or in search of a suitable pupation site that might consider it a Hickory Horned Devil. Cheers,
Josh

Letter 3 – Pine Devil

 

Subject: Is this a Hickory Horned Devil?
Location: Covington County South Alabama
August 27, 2013 10:43 am
My girlfriend and I return home after church this pass Sunday August 25, 2013 to find this impressive and intimidating caterpillar waiting to great us sitting on our front porch, it stayed and visited until Monday night some time and guess it then departed on its way to burrow in the ground, I do have large hickory nut trees in my yard and didn’t know if this could be the Hickory Horned Devil, I have never seen one of these in all my years, but it did place my mind into a state of awe and shock. I live in Covington County Alabama close to the Florida state line right out of the city of Andalusia, Al. Any help on identifying this magnificent creature would be appreciated and thanks before hand for your time and effort if you get to this.
Signature: Joey Russ

Pine Devil
Pine Devil

Hi Joey,
Your caterpillar resembles a Hickory Horned Devil because it is a close relative in the same genus, a Pine Devil,
Citheronia sepulcralis.  You can compare your image to this photo on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on several species of pine (Pinus), including Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), Eastern White Pine (P. strobus), and Caribbean Pine (P. caribaea).  Adults do not feed.”

Letter 4 – Pine Devil

 

Subject: Caterpillar with Horns-ID?
Location: Painter, VA
July 3, 2016 11:06 am
Location of this creature is Painter, VA. Found 7/3/16. Would love to know what he is.
Signature: Evelyn Wolfer

Pine Devil
Pine Devil

Dear Evelyn,
The Pine Devil,
Citheronia sepulcralis, is not nearly as colorful as its close relative the Hickory Horned Devil.  According to BugGuide it is found in:  “Eastern United States: Previously north to Maine but now likely extirpated north of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, common southward to Florida along Gulf Coast west to Louisiana. Found inland from eastern Louisiana northeast through central Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, to Southern Ohio. Single report from Illinois erroneous.”

Letter 5 – Pine Devil

 

Subject: Just Curious
Location: Summerville South Carolina
July 6, 2016 2:22 pm
I found this snacking on a wicker rocking chair in my front yard. It measures roughly 4 inches in length. It is summer and 100+ degrees outside. Just wondering what it is because I have never seen a caterpillar that big in real life.
Signature: K. W. Hibbs

Pine Devil
Pine Devil

Dear K.W. Hibbs,
This marvelous caterpillar is a Pine Devil,
Citheronia sepulcralis.

Letter 6 – Pine Devil Caterpillar

 

Possible Pine Devil
Location:  Central Virginia
August 22, 2010 6:38 am
Hi,
Scoured the site and found something similar to this – could this be a Pine Devil? We are located in Central Virginia and my husband found the critter crawling along the stone driveway. There is a large pine tree near where he found it, as well as several dogwoods and other trees.
I have more then the one picture but was unable to send more then one at a time.
Thanks for a great site!!
Mrs. L. Owen

Pine Devil

Dear Mrs. Owen,
This is most certainly a Pine Devil Caterpillar,
Citheronia supulcralis, a close relative of the Hickory Horned Devil, a caterpillar we see much more frequently than the Pine Devil.  We are currently having problems posting your photo, and we hope that we are able to post your letter now, knowing we will have to attach the photo at a later time.  BugGuide describes the adult moth as being:  “body chocolate brown with long thick abdomen; forewing dull brownish-violet with small rose basal spot and obscure blackish PM line and reniform spot; hindwing rose at base; median line and discal spot blackish; faint rose outlines of veins on forewing and hindwing.

Letter 7 – Pine Devil Moths

 

So large they took me by surprise!
Hello BugMan-
I was working in my yard (NE Florida, Jacksonville area) yesterday and took a break to sit under the oak tree and saw these HUGE moths! I didn’t know what they were at first, so I took some pictures of them. My kids thought they were so cool, and they were very velvety soft (see closeup picture), so we are browsing your wonderful site trying to find out what they might be. I am trying to teach the kids that not all bugs are bad or dangerous. I’m highly allergic to bees, wasps, etc., and that in order to know what is what we have to learn about all bugs, and that some bugs are REALLY cool! (We’ve seen some praying mantis that are fun to watch.) At first I thought these were Sphinx moths, but their eyes and antennae are not as readily visible as most of the other photos you show. In fact, I couldn’t see any eyes! Also, they were resting with wings more perpendicular than parallel to the tree. I didn’t think to put a measuring tape near them for size, but the light bulb you see is a standard mini Christmas tree bulb, so maybe that will give a good enough reference point. Can you identify them, please? And you have my permission to post the pictures here, or at any friend’s site.
Thanks in advance-
KC

Hi KC,
What a great photo of Pine Devil Moths, Citheronia sepulcralis. The smaller moth is the male.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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