First impressions

Royal Walnut Moth (Citheronia regalis) caterpillar rocking its sixth instar. At this stage of development, it's known as a Hickory Horned Devil.

Royal Walnut Moth (Citheronia regalis) caterpillar rocking its sixth instar. At this stage of development, it’s known as a Hickory Horned Devil.

Walking the Lake Conestee leg of the Swamp Rabbit Trail this week, I saw the biggest, strangest caterpillar I’d ever seen. Five inches long and as thick as my thumb.

Bright colors in nature sometimes mean poison, so I didn’t touch. Instead, I scooped it up in a large leaf and brought it home to the studio for a photo session. Then I released it into the ivy that grows creekside behind Mills Mill and googled “huge horned caterpillar.”

A Hickory Horned Devil it’s called. Soon to become a Royal Walnut Moth, scientific name Citheronia regalis. Not poisonous, not a devastator of suburban gardens, not at all rare. As harmless and common as it is frightening to behold.

So much for first impressions.

divider-home

(Insert stock observations about differences between our public and private faces.)