Regal Moth Caterpillars and Possible Viceroy Cats

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)July 19, 2014

I acquired six regal moth eggs, also some luna moth eggs. The luna moths have hatched, and five of the six regal moth eggs have hatched. I'm REAL excited about the regals/hickory horned devils! There is NO more interesting caterpillar that I've ever raised than this one! I tried to make a picture of them in the cage, but the only one that was in a good position for a picture was one that was curled up.

(I've deleted the picture that was here to post better ones.)

I took their container outside to get a better picture, but the humidity is so high it fogged up my camera lens. I'll try to make some pictures later.

The regals are eating persimmon. I chose that one, because that's what the locals use, and I wanted any future generations that may come from these to be 'persimmon' friendly. They're eating, not as much as the lunas, but then who does? I'm seeing frass under them, so that's a good sign. I'm a little nervous about them, because in the past, some of my regal cats died. They're definitely not as easy to raise as luna moths. Also, that's another reason I'm feeding them persimmon. Before, I fed them pecan, because that's the only member of the hickory family I have available, and I thought they'd do better on that. The locals seem to think persimmon is better, though, so I'll go with their opinion.

The luna moths are growing fast, as usual, on sweetgum. I don't worry about them - 'can't recall ever having lost one of them, although not all these eggs hatched.

I found two hatchlings on the willow in the garden. They're tan, the usual color of viceroy hatchlings. Red-spotted purples occasionally use willows, so they might be RSPs, but RSP hatchlings are darker, so I think a viceroy slipped in without me seeing her and laid some eggs. I hope these are viceroys, because I've just finished raising five more RSPs, and they're now chrysalides. I brought these two viceroys onto the porch to raise myself. I've had trouble in the past keeping willow fresh in water, except when the temps were mild and the humidity was very high. The humidity hasn't been under 90% in several days, so, if this keeps up, there should be no problem. Even if it doesn't, I've got plenty of willow available to use for changing out their food, and I can't leave them to the wasps, predatory stink bugs, and spiders! I don't usually raise sleepy oranges, but I'm doing so now, because the cats were disappearing - 'can't stand that!

I'm also raising yet three more spicebush swallowtails, plus one palamedes swallowtail. There is no decent redbay to be found around here (this one was on a tiny redbay seedling) so I'm feeding it sassafras, which I have plenty of, in good condition. It's doing well. Considering the way redbay gets so deformed with galls, it would be better if palamedes swallowtails would just start laying their eggs on sassafras. Here's hoping this is a female, and she'll get the message! :)


This post was edited by misssherry on Sun, Jul 20, 14 at 14:35

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msmorningsong(SW FL 10A)

I hope you continue this thread with more pictures as the cats develop and become butterflies. Will be very interesting to see.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:22AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

All five of the regal cats are eating eagerly now. Several were in an outstretched position, so I thought it'd be a good time to try and make a better picture. As soon as I started unzipping the cage to take them out, they started curling up. I read up on them, and they reportedly eat at night and stay curled up most of the day. All five of them had eaten big chunks out of their persimmon leaves, which makes me VERY happy!

Anyway, I managed to get these two pictures -


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:40PM
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msmorningsong(SW FL 10A)

What a strange yet beautiful caterpillar. I wonder why Mother nature created the spine appendages? I have never read up on this butterfly.
Sherry, do you have any other info to share as to the appendages and possible meaning?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 5:12PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The 'stick ups' are called scoli. I've never read anything that gives a reason for them being there, so I assume it's just to make the caterpillar appear ferocious so as to scare away predators. They're harmless to people, don't sting, and I've seen many pictures of people holding the late instar caterpillars in their hands, kids included.

Each instar of this species is different from the others. The scoli are much taller in relation to overall body size in the early instars than they are in the later instars. In the later instars, their body gets thick, and the scoli point backward.

There are many pictures of them on the internet, but I'll be posting pictures of each instar, since they're so unique. The adults are beautiful. Since they only have one flight per year, I won't see the adult moth until next year. I'll have to provide these with a bucket of leaves or paper towels for them to burrow into when they're ready to make their pupa. I'll keep them on the porch unless we have an extremely cold night (like the one last January) and then I'll bring them into my unheated guest room.

I'm getting ahead of myself here, though. They're not the easiest ones to raise, so I don't want to jinx things by talking about their pupae just yet! :)


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 7:07PM
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Those young cats are so cute with the little black horns
Sticking straight up! They remind me of Troll dolls.

I have seen one adult caterpillar,and it was quite large
And sort of long,too,as I recall.The curved horns just
Behind the head were imposing.All in all quite a spectacular

It was feeding on a rather bushy young hickory tree,
And I stood right over it,and touched it.

I saw it in Covington county,a long time ago.

We have abundant Hickory trees in Covington as well
As sister county Coffee.

I have seen the regal(we use the royal walnut name) moth
In both counties.

I am really looking forward to Picts of the cat's progress,
So good luck with them!


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 3:44PM
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msmorningsong(SW FL 10A)

Ah, a moth, not a butterfly.. (missed that in your first sentence!)
I have not looked up this insect (with intention) as hoping for a complete thread with all the information right here. So am at you mercy MsSherry.
Besides hickory, does this moth have any other host plants? You call it hard to raise, why?
I have much to learn, I grow plants that I know butterflies and moths love, but really need to polish up to be anything like the true butterfliers here. :)
So glad I stumbled into this forum.

This post was edited by MsMorningSong on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 7:56

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:50AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I call them hard to raise, because when I raised them before - I've only raised them once - I had about ?six eggs, only about ?three hatched, and two of those died. I've never had a death rate like that!!! I fed those three pecan, so I'm not feeding them pecan this time, although it's on the list of host plants. I'm feeding them persimmon, because I found two of them on persimmon when I first got interested in butterflies, but, for some strange reason, I didn't want to raise them. Maybe it was because they looked so menacing, and I was a newbie at the time. Then, a friend of mine brought me a late instar cat that she'd found underneath a persimmon tree, so I assume it was also eating persimmon. Since that seems to be the local favorite, I'm going with persimmon.
There are many other trees they use, though. Sweetgum, sumac, even sassafras and buttonbush are said to be used.
These cats are eating the persimmon heartily, pooping plentifully, so everything is going well with these five. Maybe I just got a bad batch before, maybe they're not really hard to raise. Maybe they're just as easy to raise as lunas! :)


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:30PM
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msmorningsong(SW FL 10A)

I was a young girl and had snuck outside...the great and beautiful Luna was dancing around the porch light.
That was my last encounter with this huge, soft, silk-like being.
Thank you for introducing me to someone I have not seen since living up north. Your neighbor is a great friend indeed, wish she lived next door to me :)

This post was edited by MsMorningSong on Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 19:00

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 3:48PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The regals are growing and changing. I still think there's no caterpillar like a hickory horned devil!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 7:46PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Here's another picture of one of the hickory horned devils -

And I can't ignore the luna moths. Here's a picture of one of them eating -


This post was edited by misssherry on Wed, Jul 30, 14 at 16:39

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 4:20PM
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cecropia(z5 Oh)

Wow,your devils are way ahead of mine,Sherry. Must be due to the warmer temps there and also the foodplant you're using.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:55PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I've been meaning to send you a picture of them, Dan, but didn't get around to it.

They all molted simultaneously yesterday (!) then, after they ate their skin (and what weird skin!) started eating again last night. I'll be posting another picture in the next day or so.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 6:15AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The first of the caterpillars on the willow emerged today, and it was a female red-spotted purple - I guess that means that the other two are also, so I didn't get viceroys.

I think the regal moth caterpillars are in their last instar. Their color is different from the way I remember them in the past, but then this is the first time I've fed them persimmon. Their heads show the typical aqua color with red parts, but their bodies look olive green, different from what I remember -


    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 8:12PM
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