Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Monday, August 06, 2007

Royal Walnut Moth

Early yesterday evening, Clate found and photographed a Regal Moth – also called a Royal Walnut Moth – on a window screen in the shade of our white oak trees. It was large and impressive, with rich orange coloring, especially on the head and the veins in the wings, and blurry spots of cream-yellow. From field guides, I learned that Citheronia regalis is fairly common, and – with a wingspan of five to six inches – is the largest kind of Royal Moth, and in the same family with Giant Silkworm Moths like Luna and Cecropia.

The caterpillars of Regal Moths feed on the leaves of several different species of forest trees, including hickory, black walnut, pecan, sweet gum and others. Called Hickory Horned Devils, the huge, brightly colored caterpillars look intimidating, with black spines on a blue-green body, and an array of black-tipped orange “horns” near the head, but they are said to be harmless. The adults do not eat, and live only long enough to mate and lay eggs.


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