Yesterday this moth was perched on the outside wall at the studio where I practice yoga. Before class started, my friend and fellow student, Diane, showed me a photograph she had taken of the moth on her way into the building and told me where I could look for it when I was leaving.
As it happened we exited the building at the same time and she pointed it out. Sure enough, the moth was still in the same spot on the brick wall. My husband snapped several images using his phone so I could share it here.
From matching photos and descriptions I believe this insect is called Citheronia regalis (regal moth or royal walnut moth).
The regal moth’s range is Eastern United States. It has a harmless, but enormous caterpillar by all accounts, growing up to six inches (someone said it is about the size of a hot dog) before burrowing into the soil to molt and overwinter in its pupa stage.
These caterpillars, named hickory horned devils, are extremely heavy feeders. A few host plants are hickories, sweet gum, persimmon, sumac and black walnut. It gets all its eating done during its early stages. This insect does not feed on anything during its adult stage as at that time it has only a vestigial mouth.
Around June-July the insect changes into the mature adult stage we saw yesterday, beautiful with a deep orange body and gray wings marked with orange veins. Though the spots look white in these images, the descriptions I read all referred to them as yellow. The Regal Moth will live for about a week during which it will mate. Apparently the male can fly from miles away to connect with a potential mate.
The Regal Moth is a large insect with a wingspan of approximately 4-6 inches (10 – 16 cm). We did not get to see the opened wings but it was a treat to meet this moth yesterday.