Aug 05 2011
This amazing creature with beautiful orange and yellow accents is a regal or royal walnut moth (Citheronia regalis), the largest moth north of Mexico with a wingspan of up to six inches.
He didn’t always look like this.
As a caterpillar he molted five times, becoming bright green with scary horns and “about the size of a large hot dog,” according to the Bug Guide. He preferred to feast on hickory and walnut trees, earning him the name hickory horned devil.
In his final instar, when he’d eaten his fill, the hickory horned devil turned a beautiful turquoise color and searched the ground for a suitable place to burrow 5-6 inches under the soil and spend the winter pupating.
Marcy Cunkelman captured this process, beginning in August last year, when the man who services her furnace brought her a hickory horned devil. She marked the place where the caterpillar burrowed and brought him above ground at various stages to see what he looked like.
He shed his skin, turned a beautiful color, then became dark and emerged as a moth early this summer.
Here he is just before he flew away, destined to live only a week. Regal moths have no mouths and cannot eat. Their only purpose is to reproduce.
Click on Marcy’s photo to watch the metamorphosis.
(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)