It is known as the Rosy Maple Moth and is a native moth in the same family as the Luna Moth and the Polyphemus Moth (some of the largest moths in North Carolina). As the name implies, the caterpillars mainly feed on maple trees, especially red, silver, and sugar maples. The adults do not eat. Adult moths are generally nocturnal, preferring to fly prior to midnight. Males can be differentiated from females by having bushier antennae which are used to detect sex pheromones released by the females.
This pretty moth was perched on a window screen at Economy Exterminators in Apex, NC on July 16th 2015.
Females lay their eggs on the underside of maple leaves. The eggs will hatch in about two weeks into a group of small, gregarious caterpillars. They will remain in a group until the third instar, after which they will feed as solitary caterpillars. Full grown caterpillars are light green with black lateral lines, a short pink line laterally near the posterior end, red heads, and two filaments protruding behind the head. They reach a maximum length of slightly more than two inches.
When ready to pupate, the caterpillars will climb down to the base of the tree and dig out a shallow underground chamber in which to pupate, emerging the following spring.
Ken Ahlstrom, Ph.D., Entomologist, Economy Exterminators, Inc.