Raising hickory horned devils -- with a bonus movie

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Raising hickory horned devils -- with a bonus movie

Post by MarkSturtevant »

Here i continue describing how I had raised a bunch of hickory horned devils (Citheronia regalis), the largest caterpillars in the U.S.
They start out small...

But over time they grow into giants. They will accept leaves from several kinds of trees, but of course once started on a particular species of tree they will not accept a different species. I chose black walnut since they do well on it, and this tree is very common in our forests. Each time they molt the larvae change their appearance, but for most of their life they are basically a brown color. Here are some pictures of 4th instar larvae. I was neglectful getting pictures of earlier instars.

The 4th instars are already larger than most caterpillars. For scale, a mature 4th instar is about the size of the average index finger. I rather I like how their long pro-legs makes them look like weird monkeys, or Tardigrades.

One goal of mine was to photograph a 4th instar larva while it was molting to the final (5th) instar. Photographing a molt proved to be ridiculously challenging! I had over a dozen larvae, and one by one, I would miss a molt. When a larva was committed to a molt, it would assume a particular posture, and seeing this I could hang it up in our dining room for a staged shoot. They will not budge until it molted and for the time the family just had to put up with tripod and big caterpillar next to the table. But it would take days before they would molt. Time and again I would go out on an errand, or even just to take a bathroom break, and I would miss it! Here is an example.

And after! (I was distracted for several minutes while commenting online).

But I eventually succeeded in photographing a molt, and I made a gif movie of the event. Now, I cannot figure out how to post a gif here, so here is a link that shows it. Just click on the Download link to play the gif. I promise it does not actually "download" anything to your computer. It just plays the gif.

Next up: Ch-Ch-Ch Changes.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

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Post by zzffnn »

Fascinating! Thank you for sharing, Mark!

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Hickory Horned Devil

Post by Olympusman »

Nice series.

Michael Reese Much FRMS EMS Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA

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Location: Ketchikan Alaska USA

Post by Sumguy01 »

=D> Very nice.
Thanks for sharing.

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