The Hickory Horned Devil: A Dangerous Creature or a Harmless Caterpillar?


“Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar” by Chiot’s Run is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

With its vibrant body, intimidating spines, and impressive size, the Hickory Horned Devil is indeed a noticeable creature. This caterpillar can be found all across the United States and can grow up to 5.5 inches or 14 centimeters long. Many of the everyday caterpillars people come across in North America are small, furry, or neutral-toned. However, some caterpillars like this one, are brightly colored, letting predators know that they’re poisonous or unsafe to eat.

Surprisingly, contrary to how the Hickory Horned Devil looks, it is completely harmless to humans. Its various features are meant to ward off predators such as birds, yellow jackets, and other insects. The Hickory Horned Devil uses these features to deceive and discourage any threats that they may come across. Normally, bright colors warn predators that the prey is dangerous, however, the Hickory Horned Devil uses this to its advantage even though it’s not poisonous.


“Hickory Horned Devil” by wwarby is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Source: William Warby)


After the Hickory Horned Devil consumes enough food, it pupates, turning into the remarkable Regal moth or Royal Walnut moth. The Regal moth has no functioning mouthparts, and solely survives on the nutrients it gathered as a caterpillar. Regal moths have an average lifespan of 10 days and must mate and lay eggs before they die. Eggs usually hatch in six to ten days, with the life cycle starting all over again.

Although the Hickory Horned Devil is harmless to humans, we still must be careful not to disturb them or their habitats so they can continue to thrive in nature.


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