Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Daniel and the Giant...Something

Photo by DTM

Remember James and the Giant Peach?  Some insects and other dirt dwellers ate magic green crystals and then grew to gigantic proportions.  Then they ate into the giant peach which had formed when the roots of a barren peach tree took up those same crystals.   (There was a less than stellar 1996 movie, but the book by Roald Dahl was one of my childhood favorites.)

No magic crystals in my backyard that I know about, but that's what I thought of when I saw what my son found back there.  It would take quite a peach to house this monster!  I found out that he's an imperial moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis).

Photo by DTM.  No endorsement for Camel or smoking implied by this mom, but his cigarette pack does give you an idea of the size of the caterpillar.  

Host plants for imperial moth caterpillars include pine, oak, maple and sweet gum, all of which are represented in my backyard, but this is the first one of these we've ever seen.  Their native range is throughout the eastern US and into the mid-west.

He's scary looking isn't he?  But, fortunately, harmless -- no sting, no bite.  Have you run across one in your garden?


Take a look at some excellent macros of the imperial caterpillar and moth in this post by Lazy B Farm  -  Quick! Get a Jar!

Kylee Baumle's posts at Our Little Acre were the first to show up on Google when I was searching for the name of this animal.  She found an imperial moth in her yard and took it inside where it proceeded to escape containment -- and then lay eggs all over her dining room!  She collected the eggs, kept them humid and warm, and documented everything with photos, from moth to egg to "poop machine."  Start here and follow Link Within at the bottom of each post for more, or check her archive.  There are several fascinating posts.