• Friday, May 11th, 2012

Last summer, some neighborhood kids brought me a shoebox. The youngest of them, about 4 years old said it was a monster. Now I was really intrigued. Let me just say, I love that the neighborhood kids think of me when they find sometime fantastic in their yard. Not only does that mean they are out exploring, but they know enough to carefully package their find and bring it to me who will share their enthusiasm and interest.

Carefully, I lifted the lid to discover a marvelous creature. A caterpillar as long as my hand and two fingers wide. This lovely specimen had horns, projections and bumps all over it. It did indeed look like a monster from another world. In fact, it was a hickory horned devil, or Royal walnut moth caterpillar.

Hickory horn devil caterpillars are harmless formidable looking creatures that grow to be 6” long. They eat the leaves of hickory and walnut trees as well as a few others.
After a few weeks of eating and growing, they bury themselves into the ground and pupate. Their coccoon looks like a thick oval bullet. It is there that they will stay, resting, growing and hoping not to be found for two years. A gorgeous moth with orange and yellow stripes will emerge the second year.
Like most of the large silkworm moths, adult royal walnut moths don’t feed. After emerging, they set out to find a mate. The females will lay a massive amount of eggs hoping some will hatch and feed on the leaves of hickory or walnut. They grow, shed and grow all summer until they are big enough to pupate. Hopefully, some neighborhood kids will find one again and think of me to share in the joy of nature.

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2 Responses

  1. 1
    Tava Robinson 

    My brother found one of these caterpillars in our back yard on a limb of our walnut tree. It about 4 inches long at the time. We had to move it because he was going to cut the tree and build chicken coops back there, hopefully it found a new home. I would hate to see that it got hurt or eaten. These are such wonderful creatures.

  2. Do you have the scientific name of that hickory horn? It’s one of the most interesting inverts I’ve come across.

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