Sunday, September 4, 2011

I've been visited by royalty

Royalty~~in the form of this fantastic Regal Moth caterpillar, Citheronia regalis (Fabricius). I've seen caterpillars that are stunning and some that are large--but I've never seen such a big beauty as this one.  The outside cats had brought it to my attention~~well, not really, actually I check on them throughout the day to make sure that they are alright and haven't gotten themselves into any trouble.  I peeked outside and could tell that they had something large, green and interesting.  I was in for a real treat.


I'm not one that usually grabs a glove when something like this presents itself~~I've been known to handle frogs, toads, lizards, snails and even a slug or two without a problem~~but I could tell that this caterpillar was going to be quite strong in its gripping abilities.  Of we went together into the backyard, me and the caterpillar minus any cats, where I could study it closer and take lots and lots of photos of it.   I was truly amazed by its beauty--from the thorny horns on its head to the lovely marking on the sides of its body and everything in between.

This caterpillar is also known as the Hickory Horned Devil~~one of its host plants in the hickory tree. Oaks along with various hickories make up the backbone of the woodlands in this area.  After nearly 12 years of living in these woods I'm surprised that this is my very first encounter with one.  More great information about this caterpillar and the moths that they become is located  here.
I knew I had a great moth caterpillar in my hand but was unsure which specie it was, I set it down for a minute and ran inside to get the field guide along with a ruler to measure it.  By the time I had made it back the caterpillar had wondered off to isolate itself from this entire ordeal that it had been put through.  Sad to see it go, I was thankful for the opportunity to have seen it firsthand.

The field guide that I own was able to show me exactly what type of caterpillar I had just encountered and also the moth that it will eventually become. Since I enjoy posting my photos to Flickr I thought that I would take a look and see what other photos of the moth I would find there. I was really delighted to find a wonderful photo of the moth.  With permission from the photographer, Myeyeongaia I've posted two wonderful photos of this winged beauty.  The above a lovely female and below a couple in the midst of continuing the cycle of life.