Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil
       Today, while birding on the bridle trail at Ridley Creek State Park, I happened to come across a Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar crossing the trail. At first I didn't know what to make of it. It was about 5 inches long and the girth with wider than my index finger. It was quite spooky looking. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so I posted photos from the internet and a description from Wikipedia below. Apparently they are the larvae of the Regal Moth.
    Wikipedia: As the caterpillars age, they feed during the day. They molt 5 times. Each instar is different, but on their sixth and final instar they become a bright green color, with huge black-tipped red horns, earning them their common name "hickory horned devils". They feed heavily on their host plant and can grow up to 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long. Their scary appearance is purely a ruse; the spines, though prickly, do not sting, and the larva is harmless and actually one of the more easily handled of the saturniidae.

     Just before pupation, the larva expels its gut and changes color from Frankenstein-green to a more fetching turquoise, the skin of the fully fed creature stretched shiny and tight. They then crawl down the host plant, where they burrow into the dirt and pupate in a well formed chamber at a depth of five to six inches. The pupae are dark brown/black in color, and have a relatively short cremaster. Some pupae overwinter for 2 seasons, perhaps as an adaption to variable and adverse conditions such as fires and flooding, or to maintain genetic diversity across generations.

Regal Moth

     When the moths eclose, they have to pump their wings with fluid to extend them. The females emit pheromones, which the male can detect through its large, plumose antennae. Males can fly for miles in order to reach a female. After the moths mate, the female spends the majority of the remainder of her life laying eggs, while the male may mate several more times. Adults of this family of moths have vestigial mouths, meaning their mouthparts have been reduced. Because of this, they do not eat and only live for about a week as adults.

     Needless to say it was a lifer for me and a real treat.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.