Rare Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar Spotted in Gaithersburg

A Hickory Horned Devil was sighted during a soccer match in Gaithersburg this weekend by nature lover Carol Lightfoot, according to the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, which called it a “rare sighting!”

According to the web page of Michael Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, hickory horned devils are about six inches in length, have horns and are harmless to people but harmful to hickory trees.

A few weeks ago, female royal walnut moths deposited their eggs on hickory trees. Soon, these eggs dropped to the soil and formed “ginormous pupal cases” to protect themselves through the cold months, said Raupp, who is known as The Bug Guy.

Raupp has only seen one once, and that was a few years ago.  He kept the pupa in his kitchen for about a month until the moth appeared, clinging to the sofa in his family room, he noted in his blog post.

The caterpillar is a member of the silk moth family

The royal walnut moth completes one generation each year in Maryland, Raupp noted. They have short lives as they lack a functional mouthpart and cannot eat as an adult. The moths live only a few days, during which they mate and lay eggs, starting the annual cycle anew.

Video courtesy of Michael Raupp’s blog post. 

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