Cecropia Moth Life Cycle: Discover the Amazing Journey

The cecropia moth is a fascinating and visually striking creature, best known for being the largest moth native to North America. Its life cycle, spanning just one year, is packed with activity and transformation, as it takes on several forms to ensure the survival of the next generation.

In the short two-week adult phase, these nocturnal moths engage in a flurry of activity. Mating and laying eggs are their critical tasks, as they need to quickly continue the life cycle of the species. The moths are primarily active at night, using scent-emitting techniques to “call” to one another.

During the majority of their short lives, cecropia moths spend approximately 10 months encased in cocoons, transforming from larvae to vibrant and large adults. This transformative period showcases nature’s impressive resilience and life-cycle efficiency in action.

Cecropia Moth Life Cycle Stages

The cecropia moth, or Hyalophora cecropia, has a one-year life cycle, with a majority of its time spent in the cocoon stage. Let’s take a closer look at each stage of the cecropia moth life cycle.

Eggs

  • Cecropia moths lay large, mottled reddish/brown eggs.
  • Eggs are typically laid on trees where caterpillars will feed.1

Caterpillar

  • Cecropia moth caterpillars are large and colorful.
  • They feed on trees, such as maple, birch, and apple2.
  • Caterpillars grow rapidly and molt several times before forming a cocoon.

Cocoon

  • Cecropia moth caterpillars spin sturdy, brown silk cocoons3.
  • Cocoons are usually attached to twigs of the host tree.
  • The moth spends about 10 months in the cocoon, overwintering as a pupa4.

Adult Moth

  • Cecropia moths are the largest native moths in North America5.
  • Adults are nocturnal and live for about two weeks6.
  • Their main goal during their short adult life is to find a mate and reproduce7.
Pros and Cons of the Cecropia Moth Life Cycle:

Pros:

  • Large and vibrant appearance makes them a favorite among collectors and nature enthusiasts.
  • Rapid growth during the caterpillar stage for improved survival.

Cons:

  • Short two-week adult life leaves little time for mating and reproduction.
  • Long cocoon stage makes them more susceptible to predation and environmental factors.

Habitat and Range

North American Distribution

The Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is found primarily across North America, with a range extending from Maine in the north, down to Florida in the south, and as far west as the Rocky Mountains1. These striking moths thrive in hardwood forests, where their preferred host plants flourish2.

Host Plants

Cecropia Moths lay their eggs on a variety of trees, which serve as food sources for the caterpillars after they hatch3. Some common host plants include:

  • Maple
  • Apple
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Box Elder
  • Elm
  • Plum
  • Willow
  • Lilac

Due to their diverse range of host plants, Cecropia Moths can adapt to various environments, ensuring their survival in different geographic areas.

Comparison Table: Common Host Plants for Cecropia Moth

Host Plant Distribution Characteristics
Maple Widespread Deciduous, dense wood, distinctive leaf shape
Apple Widespread Deciduous, fruit-bearing, often used in orchards
Ash Widespread Deciduous, compound leaves, often found in woodlands
Birch Mainly Northern Regions, Boreal Forests Deciduous, recognizable white bark, narrow canopy
Box Elder Eastern and Central US Deciduous, shrub-like, compound leaves, fruits (samaras) resemble maple seeds

Morphology and Behavior

Wingspan and Markings

The Cecropia moth, also known as Hyalophora cecropia, is North America’s largest native moth species, with a wingspan ranging from 5 to 7 inches. Here are some key features of the moth’s appearance:

  • Dark brown or gray wings with reddish patches at the base of forewings 1
  • White collar and white bands on red, hairy body 2
  • Feathery antennae

Nocturnal Activity

As nocturnal creatures, Cecropia moths are most active during the night. During this time, they search for mates and food sources. A few examples of their nocturnal behaviors include:

  • Flying towards artificial light sources due to their attraction towards light
  • Mating and laying eggs on host plants during the night

Mating and Pheromones

Cecropia moths utilize pheromones as a primary tool for mating. These chemical signals play a crucial role in attracting mates for successful reproduction. Key points about their mating and pheromones include:

  • Female moths release pheromones to attract male moths to their location.
  • Males have highly sensitive antennae that help them detect the pheromones from long distances.

Caterpillar Growth and Development

Food and Feeding Habits

Cecropia caterpillars are known for their insatiable appetite. They feed on a variety of host plants, including oaks, cherry, beech, apple, and button bush 1(https://www.nps.gov/articles/species-spotlight-cecropia-moth.htm). They consume leaves to support their rapid growth and development.

Molts and Instars

During the growth process, caterpillars undergo several molts and instars. Each instar is a developmental stage marked by shedding their old skin.

  • First Instar: Newly hatched caterpillars are small and black with short bristles.
  • Mature Instar: As they grow, caterpillars become green with a blue tinge, reaching around four inches long and nearly ¾-inch in diameter 2(https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-2015-11).
Instar Stage Physical Appearance Size (Length and Diameter)
First Instar Black with short bristles Tiny
Mature Instar Green with blue tinge, without bristles ~4 inches long, ¾-inch diameter

After reaching their final instar, caterpillars spin silk cocoons to form pupae, eventually emerging as adult cecropia moths 3(https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/cecropia-moth).

Predators and Conservation

Natural Enemies

Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia), belonging to the Saturniidae family, faces various natural enemies throughout its life cycle. Some of these predators include:

  • Flies: Tachinid flies can attack and parasitize cecropia moth larvae.
  • Insects: Different insect species, such as wasps, prey on cecropia moth larvae and pupae.
  • Bolas spiders: These spiders are known to capture moths, including members of the Saturniidae family, using a sticky “bolas” they produce.

The table below compares two common predators of the cecropia moth: flies and insects (such as wasps).

Predator Stage of cecropia moth life cycle targeted Method of attack
Flies Larvae Parasitism
Insects Larvae and pupae Prey on and consume

Human Impact

One way in which human activities can indirectly impact cecropia moth populations is through the management of a different moth species, the gypsy moth. When measures are taken to control gypsy moth populations, such as through the use of insecticides, it can inadvertently affect cecropia moth individuals.

Moreover, habitat loss and urbanization can also endanger cecropia moth populations by reducing their available habitat and food sources. Promoting conservation efforts can help ensure the continued survival of this beautiful and unique species.

Cultural Significance

The Cecropia moth, known as a native moth in North America, is considered one of the most spectacular species in its region. With its impressive and colorful appearance, it has become a symbol of beauty and wonder in nature. The moth’s size and unique features have captured the attention of collectors, nature lovers, and organizations like the National Wildlife Federation.

The Cecropia moth is also referred to as the Robin moth. This alternative name is indicative of its popularity and recognition amongst enthusiasts and casual observers alike. Its eye-catching appearance is characterized by large, dark brown or gray wings with reddish patches at the base of each forewing, and “eyespots.”

  • Features of the Cecropia moth:
    • Large size (largest native North American moth)
    • Reddish patches at the base of each forewing
    • Eyespots on the wings
    • Feathery antennae
    • Dark brown or gray wings with white bands

Cecropia moths have even inspired some cultural depictions as well. With a resemblance to the ever-changing phases of the moon, some cultures have associated these moths with lunar symbolism. Additionally, the moth’s unique transformation during its life cycle is also regarded as a metaphor for personal growth and change.

In conclusion, the Cecropia moth holds a special place in the cultural awareness of North America. Its unique appearance and life cycle have captured the imagination of people from all walks of life, leading to its continued prominence in art, folklore, and conservation efforts.

Footnotes

  1. EENY 478/IN861: Cecropia Moth, Cecropia Silk Moth, Robin Moth 2 3 4

  2. cecropia moth – Hyalophora cecropia Linnaeus 2 3 4

  3. Cecropia Moth 2 3

  4. Species Spotlight – Cecropia Moth

  5. Cecropia Moth Robin Moth

  6. Cecropia Moth Robin Moth – Life Cycle

  7. Species Spotlight – Cecropia Moth – One-Year Life Cycle

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Apple tree egg sack
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
April 10, 2015 6:42 am
Can you please help us to identify this egg sack looking thing we found on the apple tree? Thank you
Signature: Kyla

Cecropia Moth Cocoon
Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Dear Kyla,
This appears to be the Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth, one of the Giant Silk Moths found in North America.
  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.  may also feed on lilac and tamarack.”  The adult Cecropia Moth is a beautiful creature.  Cecropia Moths overwinter as cocoons and the adult should emerge very soon.

Cecropia Moth Cocoon
Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Thank you very much! It’s beautiful!
Much appreciated
Kyla

Letter 2 – Two Giant Silkworm Moths: Promethea and Cecropia

 

Cecropia and Promethea
Location: South Illinois
April 24, 2012 1:52 pm
Here is a female Promethea and a male Cecropia hanging out on my screen.
We sent you a picture of a male Promethea we found last year.
Signature: Bert

Promethea (left) and Cecropia Moths

Hi Bert,
How lucky were you to witness this great scene.  Folks lucky enough to live in areas where conditions are suited to sustaining Giant Silkmoths are likely to see them on a yearly basis.

Letter 3 – Cecropia Moth from Mississippi

 

Subject: Mississippi moth?
Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi
May 17, 2015 2:10 pm
I saw this bug while visiting Vicksburg, MS a couple of days ago. It was the biggest moth I’ve ever seen (I typically avoid all bugs). I’m just curious what it is since it flew away before yesterday morning for me to see it again!
Signature: Christina

Female Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

Dear Christina,
Your recently metamorphosed male Cecropia Moth is stunning.  He will sense pheromones released by a female Cecropia Moth, sometimes from as far away as a mile, with his big, feathery antennae, and then they will mate.  He does not need to eat.  Neither he nor his mate will feed, as they have atrophied mouthparts and they can subsist for approximately a week off fat stored in the body while a large, green Cecropia Caterpillar.

Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

Letter 4 – Parasitized Cecropia Caterpillar

 

Large green caterpillar
Hi,
I just found this large catterpillar hanging from a tree and was wondering what it was. I found it hanging in what I think was a eurpean buckthorn tree in the Oak Ridge’s Morraine, Clarington, Ontario, Canada. It was at the edge of a forest with bitternut hickory trees, swamp oak, white oak, red oak, pines, maple, silver birch, butternut, hawthorn, yellow beech and a wide variety of plants. I’m curious about what it is and will turn into! It seems to be quite close to changing into a chrysalis, it was hanging upside down and not moving when I found it. It’s very inactive.
Stella

Hi Stella,
The good news is we can identify your Cecropia Moth Caterpillar. The bad news is that it will not live to adulthood. The orange, yellow and blue tubercles are typical caterpillar markings, but the white nodules with the brown spots are a sign the caterpillar has been parasitized, probably by a Brachonid Wasp. These pupa look much smaller than the Brachonid Pupa we sometimes see on Sphingidae caterpillars and Saddleback Caterpillars, so they must be a different species. We will try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can tell us what species of Brachonid parasitizes Cecropia Caterpillars.

Letter 5 – Cecropia Moths

 

moth, who are they
These were in the garden in July. I have not seen a pair before. They stayed on this shrub from morning to and threw the night. The next morning all that we found were there wings. We placed the wings in clear document holder. Because of the different size of half moon shapes on the wings, it was assumed that we had one male and one female.
Area: Hammond, Ontario. Canada (Forested Area)

Your moths are Cecropia Moth, Hyalophora cecropia, the largest North American Giant Silkworm Moths. They may have been a mating pair. The adults live only long enough to mate and lay eggs and they cannot even eat as they don’t have working mouthparts. Sounds like a bird or other predator got a good meal.

Letter 6 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Moths
Hi,
Love your site! I took this picture a couple years ago. These two mating moths are HUGE. Can you tell me what they are? What do they feed on?
Kathy
Omaha,NE

Hi Kathy,
These are mating Cecropia Moths. They do not eat as adults. They don’t have time. They only live long enough to mate. Caterpillars feed on a variety of leaves from deciduous trees.

Letter 7 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Butterfly or moth?
I found these 2 butterflies (or moths) on my porch. Never seen anything like them. They appear to be breeding. I have searched web sites and can not find anything that resembles them. Can you tell me what they are?

These are mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 8 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

cecropia moth mating
This cecropia was found as a worm last fall in Ankeny , Iowa. She spent all winter in this jar as a cocoon and just emerged a couple of days ago. She was released and a mate found her soon after.
Craig

Hi Craig,
What a testament to pheromones at work.

Letter 9 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Cecropia Moths Mating
Thought u would find this interesting for your site. We do have the right species dont we? Any info u can provide would be appreciated. We live about 20 miles North of Pittsburgh, PA.
John and Steph

Hi John and Steph,
You are correct. These are mating Cecropia Moths. We have gotten more photos of Cecropia Moths this past month than in the past six years. After mating, the female will lay eggs and both adult moths will die without ever eating. The caterpillars feed on a variety of deciduous tree leaves, including, according to BugGuide: “alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.”

Letter 10 – More Mating Cecropia Moths

 

What is this???
Found these in my backyard here in Ontario Canada, tried to identify them and the closest I came was the Atlas Moth, but the markings and shape of the wings differ in the pictures I’ve seen, there was 2 of them apparently mating, and they were huge, I have never seen them before, if you can help me identify them please E.mail me. Thanks in advance
Lin

Hi Lin,
We had a pair of mating Cecropia Moths on our homepage and can’t understand how you missed it. Your moths are also mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 11 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Cercopia Moths Mating
Hello! My name is Maureen and I live in King City, Ontario and look what I found mating on my wind chime!

Hi Maureen,
Thanks for sending us such wonderful documentation of mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 12 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

moth??
Hello we live in Columbus, Ohio and Iam trying to identify this moth. My son ’s bug book shows an Atlas moth but they are from Asia. Any info would be great. Have a great day!
Jen

Hi Jen,
The Cecropia Moths in your photo and Atlas Moths are in the same family, Saturnidae, so the error is understandable. Thanks for sending us your photo of mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 13 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Butterfly
Can you tell me what type of bug this is? My husband and I have lived in Kansas our entire lives and never have seen this type of butterfly. There were two in our lilac bush in May. Thanks, Erin from KC
Erin Peel

Hi Erin,
These are not butterflies, but Cecropia Moths, a species of Saturnid or Giant Silkworm Moths. By the looks of things, there will be a new generation next year, at least if we are properly imagining what is happening under the cover of the lilac leaves.

Letter 14 – Cecropia Moth in San Francisco????? Stray? Escapee?? or April Fool's Day Hoax???

 

amazing butterly/moth in SF
Hi~
We live in San Francisco, CA, and found this Butterfly/Moth had laid it’s eggs on the side of our building. Do you have any idea what it is? It’s body was approximately 4 inches in length, wingspan when outstretched approximately 6-7 inches. It was huge and gorgeous. Please see attached photos. Thanks for your help!
Josephine and Chris Tobin

Hi Josephine and Chris,
We suspect that someone is playing an April Fool’s Day joke on you or that you are playing one on us. The Cecropia Moth is a species found east of the Rocky Mountains. Since pupae are readily available, this could be an escapee from a neighbor that raises Giant Silk Moths. We seriously doubt it could have strayed into your area on its own. Did you see the unicorn on the Golden Gate Bridge?

hi daniel~
my husband chris and i are amazed—-this is NO joke—–maybe an escapee, but definitely not a hoax. my son and i were retrieving our trash bins outside of our house on tuesday morning and he was the one who spotted it first! it sat perched on our front steps for almost 6 hours or so, and in fact dropped five eggs (which you might have seen in the photo, too), which are still there (but don’t seem to be growing). we watched it for a long time….it was moving, opening and closing it’s wings, moving it’s position by a few inches, and ultimately, flew away. we want to know if there’s anything we can do to save the eggs. believe me, lots of people stopped on the sidewalk in disbelief—–it was giant and exquisitely beautiful. i can send more pics if you want—-but it is just nice to know what it was. thanks for your help—and no, i didn’t see the unicorn:) best,
josephine

Thanks for the update Josephine. We believe this must be an escapee then. The eggs might be fertile if she encountered a male moth before taking flight, but adult female Saturnids are full of eggs and will lay infertile eggs if they don’t mate.

Letter 15 – Cecropia Moths raised in Captivity await release

 

cecropia and others
Hi! A couple of years ago I sent you pictures of my Cecropia project — I raised a bunch of caterpillars and was rewarded with beautiful moths the next spring. Last year I was fortunate enough to get more caterpillars, and I wanted to share some images of the moths. Very serendipitously, as you’ve made them your bug of the month for July. For your bug love page, here’s images of Red Milkweed Beetles (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus) and Scarlet and Green Leafhoppers (Graphocephala coccinea) — one with the two leafhoppers getting advice from the beetle! I’ve included a pic of a Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis) that I took last year in my back yard. According to the folks at Butterflies and Moths of North America ( http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org ) it’s a first report from MN, so that’s pretty exciting. I know it’s not a great pic but I thought you might like to see it 🙂 Lastly is a pic of what I think is Labidomera clivicollis, Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle. What do you think? Thanks as always for a great site
henry

hi Henry,
While we applaud your enthusiasm and are impressed with the volume if imagery you sent our way, we have to limit our postings. We are thrilled to post your mating Candystriped Leafhoppers and a cropped version of the three Cecropia Moths on your window screen, awaiting an opportunity to venture into the night.

Letter 16 – Laurel Sphinx and Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

 

What kinds of caterpillars are these?
Hi,
We found the caterpillar in the first picture in Belfountain, Ontario, and the caterpillar in the second one at Go Home Lake near Georgian Bay, Ontario. We’ve never seen them before! Also, can you direct us to pictures of what they will look like when they turn into moths? Any help to ID them would be appreciated. Thanks!
Janice, Paul, Riley and Gillian

Hi Janice, Pauk, Riley and Gillian,
Your Belfountaine caterpillar is a Laurel Sphinx, Sphinx kalmiae, which is easily distinguished from other Sphinx or Hawkmoth caterpillars known as Hornworms because of its black and blue mottled horn. It feeds on laurels, ashes, lilacs, privets; also reported from poplars. Here is an image of the mounted adult moth and here is a photo of a living specimen.

Your second caterpillar from Go Home Lake is a Giant Silkworm known as a Cecropia Moth, Samia cecropia or Hyalophora cecropia. This is a large beautiful moth. Here is a wonderful site that covers the entire metamorphosis of the Cecropia Moth.

Letter 17 – The Cecropia Project

 

I’ve also attached some pictures of my Cecropia project. One of the entomologists at the University gave me some newly hatched caterpillars in June, and I’m going to try to get them through to moths. I have already 9 cocoons, with another spinning now and 4 more to go. Anyway, they eat like crazy. If you look closely, you can see 10 of them in the picture. I had to put in new branches twice a day, for a while! I’ll send pictures of the moths if they make it that far. Thanks for a great site! Best wishes–
henry

Hi Henry,
Lest our readers strain their eyes, we should state we cropped your images and some of the individuals are now on the cutting room floor. We also split your letter apart so the Stink Bug is on its own page. We look forward to continued documentation of the Cecropia Project.

Letter 18 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moths
Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 9:06 AM
Thought this photo would be great for your Bug Love section. Beginning of April last year (2008), I saw these 2 Cecropia Moths on a bush at the school I teach at in Buckholts, Texas (central Texas area). I was amazed first by the size of these moths (as I had never seen any moths of this size), and then that I was seeing 2 of them together (figuratively and literally)! The Cecropia Moth has to be the most beautiful insect I’ve ever seen!
Scott Snyder
Central Texas

Cecropia Moths Mating
Cecropia Moths Mating

Dear Scott,
Though your photo was taken last year, it is just about the right time of year for our southern readers to begin sighting the beautiful Cecropia Moth.

Letter 19 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Cecropia Moths
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 5:36 PM
I found these two in my side yard this evening. I see others have also posted pictures of them. Can you give me more information? Are they more native to the Midwestern states?
Thank you,
Sandy
Lincoln, NE

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Sandy,
Though we have received several photos of mating Cecropia Moths, Hyalophora cecropia, in the past, we doubt that any are as gorgeous as yours.  They clearly indicate the egg laden body of the fuller female and the more feathered antennae of the male which allow him to scent out the female’s pheromones.  Yes, Cecropia Moths are native to the midwest as well as eastern states. BugGuide’s Data page does not indicate any submissions from Nebraska, but there are reports from Oklahoma and Texas to the south and the Dakotas to the north.  Nebraska is certainly part of the range, though probably the furthest western portion of the range.  As with most species distribution maps, there tend to be fewer individuals at the edge of a range, so sightings from Nebraska might be rare. BugGuide’s information page has this to say about the range and habitat:  “Range East of the Rocky Mountains, from Nova Scotia south to Florida. (3) overlaps range of Columbia Moth in southern Canada and adjacent northern states
Habitat Attracted to lights and increasingly common in urban and suburban areas ”   The information page on BugGuide also indicates Robin Moth as an alternate name, though this fascinating bit of information is news to us.

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Letter 20 – Cecropia Moth eggs and caterpillar

 

cecropia moth ffom 1 inch caterpillar to eggs
Location:  southwest ohio
August 11, 2010 5:03 pm
cecropia moth from 1 inch caterpillar to laying eggs. i found this early one morning after i almost stepped on it on the sidewalk, i brought it home and fed it daily from my apple tree in the front yard. it even molted its skin and then turned around and ate it! got up to check on it one morning and it had gone into its cacoon overnight. when it came out it was beautiful, i put it on my apple tree and she layed eggs. i believe she came outa little too early, beginnning of june so i dont think anything happened with the eggs. i never saw anymore caterpillars around the trees, (SAD)
BIBEF

Cecropia Caterpillar eats molted skin

ceropia moth caterpillar to eggs part 2
Location:  southwest ohio
August 11, 2010 5:40 pm
this is the cacoon, her length and the eggs
its herd to see the cacoon because she used a leaf over top, but its the sliky brown strands
also she never opened her wings fully in front of the camera, but it was 5 inches give or take a few millimeters
BIBEF

Cecropia Moth Eggs

Hi again BIBEF,
The time stamps on your photographs do not agree with your narrative account.  We are especially interested in your written account of the observations of the Cecropia Caterpillar consuming its cast off skin.  We are posting a few of your images.

i can NOT  get my camera to keep the right time and date on it. i repeatedly cchanged more than once in one day!  i dont take it off though because its not usually more than a few weeks or so off and it still gives me a general idea of dates, which i like for my neices, knowing a general timeline for them is a bit more important because theyll be around longer than my buggy friends!

Letter 21 – Cecropia Moth lays eggs on Bicycle Tire!!!

 

Butterfly or Moth
Location: Pensacola, FL
April 4, 2011 11:40 am
My fiance and I were getting ready to go on a bike ride last weekend and we came across this. Can you tell me if this is a butterfy or a moth? It appears to be laying eggs on my fiance’s bicycle tire.
Thanks!
Signature: E

Cecropia Moth laying eggs

Dear E,
This beauty is the largest Silkmoth in North America, the Cecropia Moth.  We would love to know that the Eggs survived, and we hope your fiance does not need to ride before the eggs hatch.  We expect that hatching should occur within a week.  According to BugGuide:
“Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow. may also feed on lilac and tamarack” which means you shouldn’t have too much difficulty relocating the tiny caterpillars to a food source once they hatch.

Thank you!! We cancelled our bike ride for the sake of the moth and the eggs. We haven’t been out bike riding since. I’ll have to check and see if the eggs are still there. I appreciate you writing back.
Erin R. Hall

Letter 22 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moth
Location: North of Indianapolis
May 21, 2011 7:10 pm
Just a picture to add to your collections. Found in Indianapolis 5/20/11. Sooo pretty. I came to you to find out what they were 🙂
Signature: Cynthia

Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Cynthia,
Our Bug Love page hasn’t had a really sexy photo in a few months.  Thanks for sending photos of this positively gorgeous amorous pair to add to our archives.

Mating Cecropia Moths

Letter 23 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moths
Location: Stow, Ohio
June 2, 2011 2:03 pm
Hello! I just happened upon your website while searching for ”mating cecropia moths” because someone told me that’s what these were when I posted this pic to my facebook account today! So when I saw the ’bug love’ page, I thought maybe you’d like to have copies of these photos. 🙂 These were found around 7:30 in the morning in Stow, Ohio on 6/2/11.
Signature: Sincerely, Misty from Kent, Ohio

Mating Cecropia Moths

Dear Misty,
We are positively thrilled to post your photos on our Bug Love pages.  We are sure many of our readers are anticipating the ravenous hoard of caterpillars munching on the leaves of, according to BugGuide:  ” various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow. (3)(1) may also feed on lilac and tamarack” that this pair will produce.  Should she lay eggs, they will hatch in about a week and you can release the first instars onto a tree in your yard.  Surely you have at least one tree on that long list.


Letter 24 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Subject: Cecropia moths mating?
Location: SW Ontario
July 1, 2013 10:49 am
We found these 2 moths mating on the gate post to our pool. We think the fat one is the female as she has smaller feathered antennae. They have been there since yesterday having a little alone time until we decided to take photos of them (moth porn? LOL)
The close up photo of the female looks like she is smiling. (lucky girl)
Signature: Kristyn

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Kristyn,
We never tire of photos of procreating insects and other bugs.  These mating Cecropia Moths make a lovely couple.  We hope she gets to lay her eggs so that you will be treated to future generations of Cecropia Moths.

Female Cecropia Moth:  In flagrante delecto
Female Cecropia Moth: In flagrante delicto

Letter 25 – Cecropia Moth lays eggs

 

Subject: Cecropia Moth laid eggs on me…
Location: Garner, North Carolina
June 8, 2014 9:54 pm
This gorgeous baby was sitting outside my friend’s workplace for about a week without moving, and it has been dubbed “Mothra” due to it’s MASSIVE size! About 2 nights ago, this beauty was fluttering around on the ground, a clump of spiderweb attached to it’s legs. Not one to let a poor creature die slowly, I picked it up and cleaned it off. Surprisingly, it didn’t fly away immediately, and instead chose to perch on my hand and start… defecating? No… it was LAYING EGGS. So I attempted to set it down on a nearby mailbox (which was a chore, it kept clinging to my skin), but it stopped producing eggs. I picked it back up to make sure it was okay, and it started popping out MORE EGGS. So I put it down on the windowsill (after much fighting to get it off of me), it stopped making eggs again! I didn’t want to interrupt the reproductive cycle, so I picked it back up and let it lay about a dozen more eggs before placing it on a log (mo re tussling) in the grass and gently scraping the sticky eggs onto the wood nearby. I didn’t stick around much longer (I was on a limited time frame), but I’m honoured to say I was a midwife to one of these moths! My question is, why me? Why did it stop laying on everything else, but chose to lay eggs on me?
-Steph
Signature: However you want

Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

This is just a guess.  In a normal situation, if a female Cecropia Moth mates, she will seek out an appropriate tree to lay her eggs upon, but if she did not mate, she would most likely not attempt to lay eggs.  Much of the weight of a mature, female Cecropia Moth is composed of the eggs, and if she is disturbed, which is what happened when you picked her up, she might expel some eggs. 

Thank you so much for your quick reply =] I’m really hoping she wasn’t dying, poor girl didn’t move for a week and I didn’t know what else to do with her =/

Letter 26 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Subject: Found in Indiana backyard
Location: Indianapolis indiana
June 20, 2015 4:58 pm
Hi, I found this pair in my backyard today after two days of rain. I love in indianapolis Indiana and it’s around 80 degrees in summer.
Signature: Lacey

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Dear Lacey,
Your image of mating Cecropia Moths is really beautiful.  The male on the left has more feathery antennae to help him find a mate, and a slimmer body because the female is filled with eggs.

That’s fantastic! Thank you. Feel free to use the picture however you like. It was a beautiful sight.

Letter 27 – Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Newly emerged moth
Location: Randolph Co Indiana
April 26, 2016 3:01 pm
My daughter’s third graders found a cocoon on a building in October in NE Indiana. This morning, one of them yelled “That thing is moving!” And this interesting guy came out… Is it fully metamorphosed? Will the wings expand? What IS it?
Signature: Ms Lovern’s mom

Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth
Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth

Dear Ms Lovern’s mom,
Sometimes when an insect emerges from pupation in an enclosed container, the wings do not fully expand.  We hope this Cecropia Moth eventually expanded its wings and was capable of flight, at which point we would recommend releasing it.  Judging by the antennae, it looks like a female.  Even if her wings do not fully expand, she can release pheromones and mate.  In that case, she may attract a mate and lay viable eggs, which could be raised by your daughter’s class, though following that generation may take an entire year.

Thanks! I’ll pass this on to my daughter!

Hello,
My mother messaged you recently with photos of a moth that emerged from a cocoon in my classroom.  Her wings have not yet expanded but it appears she may be laying eggs in the terrarium??  Should we release her even with her closed wings so that she can try to find a mate or wait to see if her wings expand?
Thanks,
Mrs. Lovern

Dear Mrs. Lovern,
If her wings have not expanded after 24 hours, they most likely are either deformed or injured.  Giant Silkmoths only live a few days and they do not eat.  She will not be able to fly if her wings are deformed and her eggs will not hatch if they are not fertilized.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.  may also feed on lilac and tamarack.”  You can try releasing her on one of those trees and she may attract a mate.

Update April 29, 2016
Thank you for your reply we did release her and she now has clusters of eggs in the tree where we left her.

 

Letter 28 – Male Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Moth
Location: Capac, Mich
May 17, 2017 4:58 pm
Can you help me identify this gorgeous creature, please?
Signature: MMF

Cecropia Moth

Dear MMF,
Yes indeed, the Cecropia Moth is a real impressive beauty, and based on his very feathery antennae, it is a male.  Like other Giant Silkmoths in the family Saturniidae, Cecropia Moths do not feed as adults, living only long enough to mate and lay eggs.

Letter 29 – Female Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Ceanothus Silk Moth?
Location: Choctaw, Oklahoma
May 23, 2017 5:15 pm
Found in central Oklahoma 5/22/2017.Attached are two photos.
Curious what it is if not Ceanothus silk moth.
If it is it’s a long way from home.
Thanks,
Signature: Dave Osborne

Cecropia Moth

Dear Dave,
You are correct that you are too far east for this to be a Ceanothus Silkmoth.  It is actually a closely related female Cecropia Moth.

Thank you very much for the insight.
Dave Osborne

Letter 30 – Probably Cecropia Moth Cocoon

 

Subject:  asap how to care for this large cocoon in -7 degrees C
Geographic location of the bug:  Toronto (scarborough) Ontario, Canada
Date: 12/08/2017
Time: 07:06 PM EDT
Hello Bugman!  After strong winds here in Toronto Ontario, our puppy found this!  The length of the cocoon is 3 inches.  In a teardrop shape, brown.  What is it and even more importantly:  how do we keep it alive so it can complete it’s cycle?    I have it back outside temporarily in a box….but thought to carve out a spot in a log and then place the cocoon bark over and secure with wire.  There are a few holes in the bark clearly for coming out once metamorphosis occurs.  THANK YOU, Liane and Poème
How you want your letter signed:  nature guardians Liane and Poème

Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Dear nature guardians Liane and Poéme,
We believe this is the Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth, which you can compare to this BugGuide image.  The best way to care for this cocoon is to keep it in conditions with a temperature similar to the outdoor temperature.  If you keep the cocoon indoors, it may cause premature emergence with no chance for the adult moth to mate.  Do NOT create any wire security system that will compromise the adult moth when it emerges.

Thanks Daniel!  The bark has a couple of escape holes, assuming that is for emergence.  For now I have it in a box outside with cocoon side down but not against the bottom of the bot which is folded, and not sealed shut.  I was thinking about using a rotted out log to place the bark  upside down onto the space on the log, creating a little chamber for the cocoon, then place it in our outdoors partially covered structure for protection against the elements like it would have had on the tree.  We have a log pile.
He would be safe in the box but would the log be better?
Liane and Poème
It seems either method would work, but ensure the cocoon doesn’t get either too dry or too damp.

I suspect the box will be dry…I feel like a foster parent!!

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Apple tree egg sack
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
April 10, 2015 6:42 am
Can you please help us to identify this egg sack looking thing we found on the apple tree? Thank you
Signature: Kyla

Cecropia Moth Cocoon
Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Dear Kyla,
This appears to be the Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth, one of the Giant Silk Moths found in North America.
  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.  may also feed on lilac and tamarack.”  The adult Cecropia Moth is a beautiful creature.  Cecropia Moths overwinter as cocoons and the adult should emerge very soon.

Cecropia Moth Cocoon
Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Thank you very much! It’s beautiful!
Much appreciated
Kyla

Letter 2 – Two Giant Silkworm Moths: Promethea and Cecropia

 

Cecropia and Promethea
Location: South Illinois
April 24, 2012 1:52 pm
Here is a female Promethea and a male Cecropia hanging out on my screen.
We sent you a picture of a male Promethea we found last year.
Signature: Bert

Promethea (left) and Cecropia Moths

Hi Bert,
How lucky were you to witness this great scene.  Folks lucky enough to live in areas where conditions are suited to sustaining Giant Silkmoths are likely to see them on a yearly basis.

Letter 3 – Cecropia Moth from Mississippi

 

Subject: Mississippi moth?
Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi
May 17, 2015 2:10 pm
I saw this bug while visiting Vicksburg, MS a couple of days ago. It was the biggest moth I’ve ever seen (I typically avoid all bugs). I’m just curious what it is since it flew away before yesterday morning for me to see it again!
Signature: Christina

Female Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

Dear Christina,
Your recently metamorphosed male Cecropia Moth is stunning.  He will sense pheromones released by a female Cecropia Moth, sometimes from as far away as a mile, with his big, feathery antennae, and then they will mate.  He does not need to eat.  Neither he nor his mate will feed, as they have atrophied mouthparts and they can subsist for approximately a week off fat stored in the body while a large, green Cecropia Caterpillar.

Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

Letter 4 – Parasitized Cecropia Caterpillar

 

Large green caterpillar
Hi,
I just found this large catterpillar hanging from a tree and was wondering what it was. I found it hanging in what I think was a eurpean buckthorn tree in the Oak Ridge’s Morraine, Clarington, Ontario, Canada. It was at the edge of a forest with bitternut hickory trees, swamp oak, white oak, red oak, pines, maple, silver birch, butternut, hawthorn, yellow beech and a wide variety of plants. I’m curious about what it is and will turn into! It seems to be quite close to changing into a chrysalis, it was hanging upside down and not moving when I found it. It’s very inactive.
Stella

Hi Stella,
The good news is we can identify your Cecropia Moth Caterpillar. The bad news is that it will not live to adulthood. The orange, yellow and blue tubercles are typical caterpillar markings, but the white nodules with the brown spots are a sign the caterpillar has been parasitized, probably by a Brachonid Wasp. These pupa look much smaller than the Brachonid Pupa we sometimes see on Sphingidae caterpillars and Saddleback Caterpillars, so they must be a different species. We will try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can tell us what species of Brachonid parasitizes Cecropia Caterpillars.

Letter 5 – Cecropia Moths

 

moth, who are they
These were in the garden in July. I have not seen a pair before. They stayed on this shrub from morning to and threw the night. The next morning all that we found were there wings. We placed the wings in clear document holder. Because of the different size of half moon shapes on the wings, it was assumed that we had one male and one female.
Area: Hammond, Ontario. Canada (Forested Area)

Your moths are Cecropia Moth, Hyalophora cecropia, the largest North American Giant Silkworm Moths. They may have been a mating pair. The adults live only long enough to mate and lay eggs and they cannot even eat as they don’t have working mouthparts. Sounds like a bird or other predator got a good meal.

Letter 6 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Moths
Hi,
Love your site! I took this picture a couple years ago. These two mating moths are HUGE. Can you tell me what they are? What do they feed on?
Kathy
Omaha,NE

Hi Kathy,
These are mating Cecropia Moths. They do not eat as adults. They don’t have time. They only live long enough to mate. Caterpillars feed on a variety of leaves from deciduous trees.

Letter 7 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Butterfly or moth?
I found these 2 butterflies (or moths) on my porch. Never seen anything like them. They appear to be breeding. I have searched web sites and can not find anything that resembles them. Can you tell me what they are?

These are mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 8 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

cecropia moth mating
This cecropia was found as a worm last fall in Ankeny , Iowa. She spent all winter in this jar as a cocoon and just emerged a couple of days ago. She was released and a mate found her soon after.
Craig

Hi Craig,
What a testament to pheromones at work.

Letter 9 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Cecropia Moths Mating
Thought u would find this interesting for your site. We do have the right species dont we? Any info u can provide would be appreciated. We live about 20 miles North of Pittsburgh, PA.
John and Steph

Hi John and Steph,
You are correct. These are mating Cecropia Moths. We have gotten more photos of Cecropia Moths this past month than in the past six years. After mating, the female will lay eggs and both adult moths will die without ever eating. The caterpillars feed on a variety of deciduous tree leaves, including, according to BugGuide: “alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.”

Letter 10 – More Mating Cecropia Moths

 

What is this???
Found these in my backyard here in Ontario Canada, tried to identify them and the closest I came was the Atlas Moth, but the markings and shape of the wings differ in the pictures I’ve seen, there was 2 of them apparently mating, and they were huge, I have never seen them before, if you can help me identify them please E.mail me. Thanks in advance
Lin

Hi Lin,
We had a pair of mating Cecropia Moths on our homepage and can’t understand how you missed it. Your moths are also mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 11 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Cercopia Moths Mating
Hello! My name is Maureen and I live in King City, Ontario and look what I found mating on my wind chime!

Hi Maureen,
Thanks for sending us such wonderful documentation of mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 12 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

moth??
Hello we live in Columbus, Ohio and Iam trying to identify this moth. My son ’s bug book shows an Atlas moth but they are from Asia. Any info would be great. Have a great day!
Jen

Hi Jen,
The Cecropia Moths in your photo and Atlas Moths are in the same family, Saturnidae, so the error is understandable. Thanks for sending us your photo of mating Cecropia Moths.

Letter 13 – Cecropia Moths Mating

 

Butterfly
Can you tell me what type of bug this is? My husband and I have lived in Kansas our entire lives and never have seen this type of butterfly. There were two in our lilac bush in May. Thanks, Erin from KC
Erin Peel

Hi Erin,
These are not butterflies, but Cecropia Moths, a species of Saturnid or Giant Silkworm Moths. By the looks of things, there will be a new generation next year, at least if we are properly imagining what is happening under the cover of the lilac leaves.

Letter 14 – Cecropia Moth in San Francisco????? Stray? Escapee?? or April Fool's Day Hoax???

 

amazing butterly/moth in SF
Hi~
We live in San Francisco, CA, and found this Butterfly/Moth had laid it’s eggs on the side of our building. Do you have any idea what it is? It’s body was approximately 4 inches in length, wingspan when outstretched approximately 6-7 inches. It was huge and gorgeous. Please see attached photos. Thanks for your help!
Josephine and Chris Tobin

Hi Josephine and Chris,
We suspect that someone is playing an April Fool’s Day joke on you or that you are playing one on us. The Cecropia Moth is a species found east of the Rocky Mountains. Since pupae are readily available, this could be an escapee from a neighbor that raises Giant Silk Moths. We seriously doubt it could have strayed into your area on its own. Did you see the unicorn on the Golden Gate Bridge?

hi daniel~
my husband chris and i are amazed—-this is NO joke—–maybe an escapee, but definitely not a hoax. my son and i were retrieving our trash bins outside of our house on tuesday morning and he was the one who spotted it first! it sat perched on our front steps for almost 6 hours or so, and in fact dropped five eggs (which you might have seen in the photo, too), which are still there (but don’t seem to be growing). we watched it for a long time….it was moving, opening and closing it’s wings, moving it’s position by a few inches, and ultimately, flew away. we want to know if there’s anything we can do to save the eggs. believe me, lots of people stopped on the sidewalk in disbelief—–it was giant and exquisitely beautiful. i can send more pics if you want—-but it is just nice to know what it was. thanks for your help—and no, i didn’t see the unicorn:) best,
josephine

Thanks for the update Josephine. We believe this must be an escapee then. The eggs might be fertile if she encountered a male moth before taking flight, but adult female Saturnids are full of eggs and will lay infertile eggs if they don’t mate.

Letter 15 – Cecropia Moths raised in Captivity await release

 

cecropia and others
Hi! A couple of years ago I sent you pictures of my Cecropia project — I raised a bunch of caterpillars and was rewarded with beautiful moths the next spring. Last year I was fortunate enough to get more caterpillars, and I wanted to share some images of the moths. Very serendipitously, as you’ve made them your bug of the month for July. For your bug love page, here’s images of Red Milkweed Beetles (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus) and Scarlet and Green Leafhoppers (Graphocephala coccinea) — one with the two leafhoppers getting advice from the beetle! I’ve included a pic of a Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis) that I took last year in my back yard. According to the folks at Butterflies and Moths of North America ( http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org ) it’s a first report from MN, so that’s pretty exciting. I know it’s not a great pic but I thought you might like to see it 🙂 Lastly is a pic of what I think is Labidomera clivicollis, Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle. What do you think? Thanks as always for a great site
henry

hi Henry,
While we applaud your enthusiasm and are impressed with the volume if imagery you sent our way, we have to limit our postings. We are thrilled to post your mating Candystriped Leafhoppers and a cropped version of the three Cecropia Moths on your window screen, awaiting an opportunity to venture into the night.

Letter 16 – Laurel Sphinx and Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

 

What kinds of caterpillars are these?
Hi,
We found the caterpillar in the first picture in Belfountain, Ontario, and the caterpillar in the second one at Go Home Lake near Georgian Bay, Ontario. We’ve never seen them before! Also, can you direct us to pictures of what they will look like when they turn into moths? Any help to ID them would be appreciated. Thanks!
Janice, Paul, Riley and Gillian

Hi Janice, Pauk, Riley and Gillian,
Your Belfountaine caterpillar is a Laurel Sphinx, Sphinx kalmiae, which is easily distinguished from other Sphinx or Hawkmoth caterpillars known as Hornworms because of its black and blue mottled horn. It feeds on laurels, ashes, lilacs, privets; also reported from poplars. Here is an image of the mounted adult moth and here is a photo of a living specimen.

Your second caterpillar from Go Home Lake is a Giant Silkworm known as a Cecropia Moth, Samia cecropia or Hyalophora cecropia. This is a large beautiful moth. Here is a wonderful site that covers the entire metamorphosis of the Cecropia Moth.

Letter 17 – The Cecropia Project

 

I’ve also attached some pictures of my Cecropia project. One of the entomologists at the University gave me some newly hatched caterpillars in June, and I’m going to try to get them through to moths. I have already 9 cocoons, with another spinning now and 4 more to go. Anyway, they eat like crazy. If you look closely, you can see 10 of them in the picture. I had to put in new branches twice a day, for a while! I’ll send pictures of the moths if they make it that far. Thanks for a great site! Best wishes–
henry

Hi Henry,
Lest our readers strain their eyes, we should state we cropped your images and some of the individuals are now on the cutting room floor. We also split your letter apart so the Stink Bug is on its own page. We look forward to continued documentation of the Cecropia Project.

Letter 18 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moths
Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 9:06 AM
Thought this photo would be great for your Bug Love section. Beginning of April last year (2008), I saw these 2 Cecropia Moths on a bush at the school I teach at in Buckholts, Texas (central Texas area). I was amazed first by the size of these moths (as I had never seen any moths of this size), and then that I was seeing 2 of them together (figuratively and literally)! The Cecropia Moth has to be the most beautiful insect I’ve ever seen!
Scott Snyder
Central Texas

Cecropia Moths Mating
Cecropia Moths Mating

Dear Scott,
Though your photo was taken last year, it is just about the right time of year for our southern readers to begin sighting the beautiful Cecropia Moth.

Letter 19 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Cecropia Moths
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 5:36 PM
I found these two in my side yard this evening. I see others have also posted pictures of them. Can you give me more information? Are they more native to the Midwestern states?
Thank you,
Sandy
Lincoln, NE

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Sandy,
Though we have received several photos of mating Cecropia Moths, Hyalophora cecropia, in the past, we doubt that any are as gorgeous as yours.  They clearly indicate the egg laden body of the fuller female and the more feathered antennae of the male which allow him to scent out the female’s pheromones.  Yes, Cecropia Moths are native to the midwest as well as eastern states. BugGuide’s Data page does not indicate any submissions from Nebraska, but there are reports from Oklahoma and Texas to the south and the Dakotas to the north.  Nebraska is certainly part of the range, though probably the furthest western portion of the range.  As with most species distribution maps, there tend to be fewer individuals at the edge of a range, so sightings from Nebraska might be rare. BugGuide’s information page has this to say about the range and habitat:  “Range East of the Rocky Mountains, from Nova Scotia south to Florida. (3) overlaps range of Columbia Moth in southern Canada and adjacent northern states
Habitat Attracted to lights and increasingly common in urban and suburban areas ”   The information page on BugGuide also indicates Robin Moth as an alternate name, though this fascinating bit of information is news to us.

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Letter 20 – Cecropia Moth eggs and caterpillar

 

cecropia moth ffom 1 inch caterpillar to eggs
Location:  southwest ohio
August 11, 2010 5:03 pm
cecropia moth from 1 inch caterpillar to laying eggs. i found this early one morning after i almost stepped on it on the sidewalk, i brought it home and fed it daily from my apple tree in the front yard. it even molted its skin and then turned around and ate it! got up to check on it one morning and it had gone into its cacoon overnight. when it came out it was beautiful, i put it on my apple tree and she layed eggs. i believe she came outa little too early, beginnning of june so i dont think anything happened with the eggs. i never saw anymore caterpillars around the trees, (SAD)
BIBEF

Cecropia Caterpillar eats molted skin

ceropia moth caterpillar to eggs part 2
Location:  southwest ohio
August 11, 2010 5:40 pm
this is the cacoon, her length and the eggs
its herd to see the cacoon because she used a leaf over top, but its the sliky brown strands
also she never opened her wings fully in front of the camera, but it was 5 inches give or take a few millimeters
BIBEF

Cecropia Moth Eggs

Hi again BIBEF,
The time stamps on your photographs do not agree with your narrative account.  We are especially interested in your written account of the observations of the Cecropia Caterpillar consuming its cast off skin.  We are posting a few of your images.

i can NOT  get my camera to keep the right time and date on it. i repeatedly cchanged more than once in one day!  i dont take it off though because its not usually more than a few weeks or so off and it still gives me a general idea of dates, which i like for my neices, knowing a general timeline for them is a bit more important because theyll be around longer than my buggy friends!

Letter 21 – Cecropia Moth lays eggs on Bicycle Tire!!!

 

Butterfly or Moth
Location: Pensacola, FL
April 4, 2011 11:40 am
My fiance and I were getting ready to go on a bike ride last weekend and we came across this. Can you tell me if this is a butterfy or a moth? It appears to be laying eggs on my fiance’s bicycle tire.
Thanks!
Signature: E

Cecropia Moth laying eggs

Dear E,
This beauty is the largest Silkmoth in North America, the Cecropia Moth.  We would love to know that the Eggs survived, and we hope your fiance does not need to ride before the eggs hatch.  We expect that hatching should occur within a week.  According to BugGuide:
“Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow. may also feed on lilac and tamarack” which means you shouldn’t have too much difficulty relocating the tiny caterpillars to a food source once they hatch.

Thank you!! We cancelled our bike ride for the sake of the moth and the eggs. We haven’t been out bike riding since. I’ll have to check and see if the eggs are still there. I appreciate you writing back.
Erin R. Hall

Letter 22 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moth
Location: North of Indianapolis
May 21, 2011 7:10 pm
Just a picture to add to your collections. Found in Indianapolis 5/20/11. Sooo pretty. I came to you to find out what they were 🙂
Signature: Cynthia

Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Cynthia,
Our Bug Love page hasn’t had a really sexy photo in a few months.  Thanks for sending photos of this positively gorgeous amorous pair to add to our archives.

Mating Cecropia Moths

Letter 23 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Mating Cecropia Moths
Location: Stow, Ohio
June 2, 2011 2:03 pm
Hello! I just happened upon your website while searching for ”mating cecropia moths” because someone told me that’s what these were when I posted this pic to my facebook account today! So when I saw the ’bug love’ page, I thought maybe you’d like to have copies of these photos. 🙂 These were found around 7:30 in the morning in Stow, Ohio on 6/2/11.
Signature: Sincerely, Misty from Kent, Ohio

Mating Cecropia Moths

Dear Misty,
We are positively thrilled to post your photos on our Bug Love pages.  We are sure many of our readers are anticipating the ravenous hoard of caterpillars munching on the leaves of, according to BugGuide:  ” various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow. (3)(1) may also feed on lilac and tamarack” that this pair will produce.  Should she lay eggs, they will hatch in about a week and you can release the first instars onto a tree in your yard.  Surely you have at least one tree on that long list.


Letter 24 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Subject: Cecropia moths mating?
Location: SW Ontario
July 1, 2013 10:49 am
We found these 2 moths mating on the gate post to our pool. We think the fat one is the female as she has smaller feathered antennae. They have been there since yesterday having a little alone time until we decided to take photos of them (moth porn? LOL)
The close up photo of the female looks like she is smiling. (lucky girl)
Signature: Kristyn

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Hi Kristyn,
We never tire of photos of procreating insects and other bugs.  These mating Cecropia Moths make a lovely couple.  We hope she gets to lay her eggs so that you will be treated to future generations of Cecropia Moths.

Female Cecropia Moth:  In flagrante delecto
Female Cecropia Moth: In flagrante delicto

Letter 25 – Cecropia Moth lays eggs

 

Subject: Cecropia Moth laid eggs on me…
Location: Garner, North Carolina
June 8, 2014 9:54 pm
This gorgeous baby was sitting outside my friend’s workplace for about a week without moving, and it has been dubbed “Mothra” due to it’s MASSIVE size! About 2 nights ago, this beauty was fluttering around on the ground, a clump of spiderweb attached to it’s legs. Not one to let a poor creature die slowly, I picked it up and cleaned it off. Surprisingly, it didn’t fly away immediately, and instead chose to perch on my hand and start… defecating? No… it was LAYING EGGS. So I attempted to set it down on a nearby mailbox (which was a chore, it kept clinging to my skin), but it stopped producing eggs. I picked it back up to make sure it was okay, and it started popping out MORE EGGS. So I put it down on the windowsill (after much fighting to get it off of me), it stopped making eggs again! I didn’t want to interrupt the reproductive cycle, so I picked it back up and let it lay about a dozen more eggs before placing it on a log (mo re tussling) in the grass and gently scraping the sticky eggs onto the wood nearby. I didn’t stick around much longer (I was on a limited time frame), but I’m honoured to say I was a midwife to one of these moths! My question is, why me? Why did it stop laying on everything else, but chose to lay eggs on me?
-Steph
Signature: However you want

Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth

This is just a guess.  In a normal situation, if a female Cecropia Moth mates, she will seek out an appropriate tree to lay her eggs upon, but if she did not mate, she would most likely not attempt to lay eggs.  Much of the weight of a mature, female Cecropia Moth is composed of the eggs, and if she is disturbed, which is what happened when you picked her up, she might expel some eggs. 

Thank you so much for your quick reply =] I’m really hoping she wasn’t dying, poor girl didn’t move for a week and I didn’t know what else to do with her =/

Letter 26 – Mating Cecropia Moths

 

Subject: Found in Indiana backyard
Location: Indianapolis indiana
June 20, 2015 4:58 pm
Hi, I found this pair in my backyard today after two days of rain. I love in indianapolis Indiana and it’s around 80 degrees in summer.
Signature: Lacey

Mating Cecropia Moths
Mating Cecropia Moths

Dear Lacey,
Your image of mating Cecropia Moths is really beautiful.  The male on the left has more feathery antennae to help him find a mate, and a slimmer body because the female is filled with eggs.

That’s fantastic! Thank you. Feel free to use the picture however you like. It was a beautiful sight.

Letter 27 – Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Newly emerged moth
Location: Randolph Co Indiana
April 26, 2016 3:01 pm
My daughter’s third graders found a cocoon on a building in October in NE Indiana. This morning, one of them yelled “That thing is moving!” And this interesting guy came out… Is it fully metamorphosed? Will the wings expand? What IS it?
Signature: Ms Lovern’s mom

Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth
Newly Eclosed Cecropia Moth

Dear Ms Lovern’s mom,
Sometimes when an insect emerges from pupation in an enclosed container, the wings do not fully expand.  We hope this Cecropia Moth eventually expanded its wings and was capable of flight, at which point we would recommend releasing it.  Judging by the antennae, it looks like a female.  Even if her wings do not fully expand, she can release pheromones and mate.  In that case, she may attract a mate and lay viable eggs, which could be raised by your daughter’s class, though following that generation may take an entire year.

Thanks! I’ll pass this on to my daughter!

Hello,
My mother messaged you recently with photos of a moth that emerged from a cocoon in my classroom.  Her wings have not yet expanded but it appears she may be laying eggs in the terrarium??  Should we release her even with her closed wings so that she can try to find a mate or wait to see if her wings expand?
Thanks,
Mrs. Lovern

Dear Mrs. Lovern,
If her wings have not expanded after 24 hours, they most likely are either deformed or injured.  Giant Silkmoths only live a few days and they do not eat.  She will not be able to fly if her wings are deformed and her eggs will not hatch if they are not fertilized.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of various trees and shrubs including alder, apple, ash, beech, birch, box-elder, cherry, dogwood, elm, gooseberry, maple, plum, poplar, white oak, willow.  may also feed on lilac and tamarack.”  You can try releasing her on one of those trees and she may attract a mate.

Update April 29, 2016
Thank you for your reply we did release her and she now has clusters of eggs in the tree where we left her.

 

Letter 28 – Male Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Moth
Location: Capac, Mich
May 17, 2017 4:58 pm
Can you help me identify this gorgeous creature, please?
Signature: MMF

Cecropia Moth

Dear MMF,
Yes indeed, the Cecropia Moth is a real impressive beauty, and based on his very feathery antennae, it is a male.  Like other Giant Silkmoths in the family Saturniidae, Cecropia Moths do not feed as adults, living only long enough to mate and lay eggs.

Letter 29 – Female Cecropia Moth

 

Subject: Ceanothus Silk Moth?
Location: Choctaw, Oklahoma
May 23, 2017 5:15 pm
Found in central Oklahoma 5/22/2017.Attached are two photos.
Curious what it is if not Ceanothus silk moth.
If it is it’s a long way from home.
Thanks,
Signature: Dave Osborne

Cecropia Moth

Dear Dave,
You are correct that you are too far east for this to be a Ceanothus Silkmoth.  It is actually a closely related female Cecropia Moth.

Thank you very much for the insight.
Dave Osborne

Letter 30 – Probably Cecropia Moth Cocoon

 

Subject:  asap how to care for this large cocoon in -7 degrees C
Geographic location of the bug:  Toronto (scarborough) Ontario, Canada
Date: 12/08/2017
Time: 07:06 PM EDT
Hello Bugman!  After strong winds here in Toronto Ontario, our puppy found this!  The length of the cocoon is 3 inches.  In a teardrop shape, brown.  What is it and even more importantly:  how do we keep it alive so it can complete it’s cycle?    I have it back outside temporarily in a box….but thought to carve out a spot in a log and then place the cocoon bark over and secure with wire.  There are a few holes in the bark clearly for coming out once metamorphosis occurs.  THANK YOU, Liane and Poème
How you want your letter signed:  nature guardians Liane and Poème

Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Dear nature guardians Liane and Poéme,
We believe this is the Cocoon of a Cecropia Moth, which you can compare to this BugGuide image.  The best way to care for this cocoon is to keep it in conditions with a temperature similar to the outdoor temperature.  If you keep the cocoon indoors, it may cause premature emergence with no chance for the adult moth to mate.  Do NOT create any wire security system that will compromise the adult moth when it emerges.

Thanks Daniel!  The bark has a couple of escape holes, assuming that is for emergence.  For now I have it in a box outside with cocoon side down but not against the bottom of the bot which is folded, and not sealed shut.  I was thinking about using a rotted out log to place the bark  upside down onto the space on the log, creating a little chamber for the cocoon, then place it in our outdoors partially covered structure for protection against the elements like it would have had on the tree.  We have a log pile.
He would be safe in the box but would the log be better?
Liane and Poème
It seems either method would work, but ensure the cocoon doesn’t get either too dry or too damp.

I suspect the box will be dry…I feel like a foster parent!!

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

13 thoughts on “Cecropia Moth Life Cycle: Discover the Amazing Journey”

  1. Friends and I have been watching a strange coccoon all winter. Today a beautiful, very large month came from the coccoon. We took several pictures and investigated what type of moth it was. Our pictures match in everyway to a moth called Cecropia.
    We are located in the south western mountains of North Carolina at Brevard. Elevation 3,500 ft. apprx.
    Never seen a moth like this before. is this out of range for these type of moths? Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Friends and I have been watching a strange coccoon all winter. Today a beautiful, very large month came from the coccoon. We took several pictures and investigated what type of moth it was. Our pictures match in everyway to a moth called Cecropia.
    We are located in the south western mountains of North Carolina at Brevard. Elevation 3,500 ft. apprx.
    Never seen a moth like this before. is this out of range for these type of moths? Thank you.

    Reply
  3. This site was sent to me by a friend. I had sent her a picture I took of a Black Witch moth last year, plastered to the cedar siding on my house, inside the protected front porch. I had to get on a ladder to get a good shot of it. I live in Coventry, RI. She said it was rare to get them here. When she sent this site, there was an article about one in Central Park, but I don’t see it here now.

    Reply
  4. Hello, We just had a female Cecropia moth emerge from a cocoon. I found the cocoon in a tree and wanted to find out what kind of moth was in it so I placed the cocoon in a large jar. After about two weeks the moth emerged and I placed a plastic pole in the jar so she could crawl out, since she was trying to expand her wings. However, while still in the jar on the plastic she began laying eggs. Is there any chance that she was fertilized before forming a cocoon. I know some male moths will seek out females while still in their cocoon. I will keep the eggs to see if they hatch them place the young caterpillar on an appropriate food source.

    Reply
    • We do not believe it is possible for a female Cecropia Moth to be fertilized while still in the cocoon. What likely happened is that full of eggs and getting ready for her first flight, she may have laid some unfertilized eggs to reduce her payload.

      Reply
  5. I found a Cecropia moth caterpillar being harassed by yellow jackets- probably Vespula maculifrons here in NC. It had fallen from an elderberry bush I was pruning. I rescued the caterpillar but moved it to a red maple far away and much later. A yellow jacket found it so he is inside in a terrarium, responding to stimulus but not feeding and no pupa yet

    Reply

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