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Hickory trees feed regal moths

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Hickory tree leaves are the larval food source of two hundred moths or butterflies; and one is particular is spectacular in both the larval and adult stage. The regal moth, Citheronia regalis, although active at night, is as beautiful as many butterflies with wings and body brightly colored with orange and yellow patterns. If you ever find the wildest looking creature imaginable on the ground, it is probably the larva of this moth which is called the hickory horned devil, our largest larva. Almost as big as a hot dog-- it’s bluish-green with incredibly frightening looking yellow- black but non-irritating projections, you’d be completely safe picking it up. This caterpillar pupates in the soil. If you find one on the ground, take it to an area that will be undisturbed and place it in in the mulch.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.