Cecropia Moth

Cecropia Moth Hyalophora cecropia

Type of Animal:
Saturniid Moth

Hardwood forests, areas w/ lights, areas w/ trees, wooden structures, successional habitats in suburban/urban areas

North America

N America’s largest moth, silky moths w/ reddish bodies & black to brown wings surrounded by bands of white/red/tan, males have smaller abdomens/larger antennae. Caterpillars go through 5 instars (development stages)-1st instar caterpillars black, 2nd instar yellow-green, 3rd to 5th instar caterpillars larger & bluish green. Finally, caterpillars lose black hairs w/ tubercles (small projections) becoming blue/yellow/orange

Caterpillars eat leaves. Adults lack digestive tracts & don’t eat, only mating & laying eggs (adult part of life cycle only lasts 1-2 weeks).

Status in Wild:

Breeding in butterfly gardens, zoos, aquariums, & museums. Population control of parasitic flies, especially non-native Compsilura concinnata.

Found in small groups

Additional Info:

Young: Caterpillar
Group: Eclipse

Male: 0.9 oz
Female: 1.6 oz

2 weeks

Life Span:
1 year

Body Length/Wingspan:
Male: 4 in
Female: 6 in
Young: 3-3.5 in

Birds, squirrels, raccoons, bats, shrews, mice, & spiders eat adults & caterpillars. Many insects prey on smaller caterpillars & eggs, especially parasitic wasps & parasitic flies. Parasitic wasps & flies lay eggs in/on young caterpillars, eventually hatching. Larvae eat internal organs/muscles & parasitoid releases chemicals overriding caterpillar’s regulatory mechanisms. When parasitoid larvae grow enough, they induce caterpillar to pupate, causing larvae to pupate, ultimately killing cecropia pupae.

Each development (instar) stage lasts about a week. After 5 weeks, caterpillars spin large brown cocoon on plant/wooden structure. Then they stay in cocoon until last 1-2 weeks of life, when they emerge. 

Each female lays 100-200 eggs on multiple sides of leaves of trees/shrubs. Females die after laying eggs & males die after mating.

1 generation of these moths are born per year.

Females don’t fly very far, producing pheromones to attract males, which can detect them from over a mile away. Some males fly as far as 7 miles away.

Active at night (nocturnal).

Like many moths, they’re attracted to light.

Caterpillars typically not known to cause damage.

Fun Fact(s):
Cecropia derives from ancient Greek phrase meaning “face with a tail.”

Tree pruning & leaving outdoor lights on at night can be detrimental to these moths.

Many male moths end up being preyed by bolas spiders, since these spider species can mimic pheromones produced by moths.

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