I was out hiking in the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas early in October 2022, when I came across an incredible sight. As I walked along the trail, I noticed a massive caterpillar slowly crawling along a branch near a large hickory tree. This was no ordinary caterpillar – it had long, curved black and red horns, dangerous looking spines, and odd tentacle-like appendages. I had never seen anything like it before and quickly grabbed my camera to snap some photos.
When I got home and did some research, I discovered this was a Hickory Horned Devil, the caterpillar stage of the Regal Moth. This caterpillar sure lives up to its name, with its devilish appearance and huge size. I really wish my photos could properly convey the massive size of this creature – it was one of the largest caterpillars I’ve ever seen.
Note: The Hickory Horned Devil, the larva of the Regal Moth, is a large and impressive caterpillar. It can reach a length of 5.5 to 6 inches. When fully grown, it is about the size of a large hot dog.
Despite its threatening look, the Hickory Horned Devil is harmless to humans. Its spines are not sharp enough to cause any real damage and it does not bite or sting. This caterpillar gets its name from its favorite food source – hickory and pecan leaves. Hickory Horned Devil caterpillars are voracious eaters and will strip the leaves off of entire trees if given the chance.
It was such an unexpected thrill to come across this incredible caterpillar in the forest. As a wildlife photographer, moments like these are the ones I live for. Getting to witness fascinating species like the Hickory Horned Devil in their natural habitats is a real privilege. While this caterpillar may look like something from a monster movie, it is a special part of the web of life in the Ouachita National Forest. I feel lucky to have had the chance to admire its strange beauty in person. Just another memorable encounter while hiking in the Arkansas woods!
Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer
- Date: 10/02/22
- Time: 9:18 AM
- Camera: Canon EOS R7
- Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
- ISO: 1000
- Aperture: 8
- Shutter: 1/800
- Exp. Comp.: -1.3
- Program: Manual