Cecropia Moth Encounter

Alien Nature

In late summer while walking our dogs, I spotted two Cecropia caterpillars feeding in a wild cherry tree. I knew this would be a once in a lifetime encounter, so I took clippings from the tree and brought the caterpillars home.

We watched these bizarre looking, three inch caterpillars feed for a few days before they started to weave silk cocoons. They over-wintered on our porch, and it was exciting to witness them when the moths finally emerged the following spring.

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Beautiful Transformation

The Cecropia Moth is the largest native moth of North America. Females can grow a wingspan of 160 mm or more. They are found as far west as the Rocky Mountains and north into the maritime provinces of Canada. Our moths were measured at 6-1/2 and 7 inches.

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You are not likely to see one in the wild, unless you’re in the forest at night. When adults emerge from their cocoon they pump fluid into their wings to extend them.

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The females are active at night, emitting pheromones which attracts males up to three miles away. The moths mate and the female spends the remainder of her life laying eggs. The males may mate several more times. Adult Cecropia moths do not have mouth parts, so they’re not able to eat. As a result, the lifespan of an adult Cecropia moth is about 7 to 10 days in the wild.

It was astonishing to witness the transformation of this beautiful giant moth, with a wingspan of 146 mm (5-3/4 inches). Setting it free, and watching it fly away was a wonderful experience I’ll never forget.

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Walk softly, let nature be your guide…

Christina Rollo
Fine Art Photographer

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