Lincoln Elementary School students recently got to meet a a rather strange looking caterpillar not often seen in these parts, thanks to the efforts of kindergarten teacher Meghan Behr.
The odd green creature, known as a hickory horned devil caterpillar, was found by Behr in Emmaus Community Park on a Sunday afternoon. She captured it and took it to Lincoln the next day for the students to see, ultimately releasing it back into Community Park when show-and-tell was through.
Patch reader Tara Takach alerted Patch about Behr's bug friend and sent the picture of the caterpillar that appears with this story.
Behr's find is indeed something to be excited about, according to Marten J. Edwards, associate professor of biology at Muhlenberg College. He confirms that Behr's find is indeed a hickory horned devil. It will one day become a regal moth, Edwards says, the largest moth that lives in our area.
"They are rare in our area," Edwards explained in an email, "but more common further South. I've never seen one alive, so this was a great find.
"They were once more common, but are hard to find now. One factor is that they have suffered from being parasitized by a type of fly that was introduced to kill gypsy moths. It didn't do a very good job on the gypsy moths, but really devastated the caterpillars of some of our favorite moths, like the regal moth and the luna moth," Edwards wrote.
The best place to put a hickory horned devil, should you find one, Edwards say, is on a hickory tree, which might be hard to find in our area, or a black walnut tree, which is more common.
Edwards had this to say about the hickory horned devil's distinctive appearance:
"I have a friend who works at the Philadelphia Academy and he takes a lot of calls from the public," Edwards writes. "When anybody calls the academy to report finding a space alien in their back yard, he asks if it looks like the hickory horned devil. It usually does!"
Photo: The hickory horned devil caterpillar found in Emmaus Community Park recently. Pictured next to a single-serving size bag of Skittles for size comparison.