Meet The Hickory Horned Devil, The Monstrously Massive Caterpillar That Thrives In West Virginia
Nature is pretty amazing…especially in wild, wonderful West Virginia, where you can get up close and personal with hundreds of thousands of acres of it. From rushing waterfalls to plummeting gorges to sheer rock cliffs, we’ve got it covered, including…North America’s largest caterpillars? You betcha!
The largest caterpillar in the United States (and one of the largest in North America) is known as the Hickory Horned Devil, and it's like something straight out of Alice In Wonderland...or worse.
The Hickory Horned Devil, named for the up-to-one-inch-long protrusions sprouting from its head, really is surprisingly HUGE, especially in person: a large one is bigger than an adult hand.
In fact, these wriggly giants can grow to a length of over six inches! For reference, that's about the size of an extra-large hot dog.
(Definitely not as tasty, though!)
As you can imagine, meeting one in your garden can be quite a shock, but they're absolutely harmless. They're not even considered much of a pest, as they feed mostly on tree leaves from trees that can easily spare the foliage.
So if you do encounter one in the wild, feel free to pick it up and examine it more closely and then put it gently back on a nearby branch when you're done.
Once the Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar is done growing, it will burrow deep into the dirt to hide in an earthen changing chamber (no cocoon for these guys!), and re-emerge as a beautiful Royal Moth.
As you might expect, Royal Moths are also one of the largest moths in North America, with an impressive 4-to-6-inch wingspan.
What an amazing (and perhaps slightly disturbing) creature! Have you ever seen one of these caterpillar giants in the wild? How did you react? Were you brave enough to hold it?
If you love nature, especially the six-legged, creepy-crawly kind, you might also find
this article about camel crickets in West Virginia interesting.
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