The Cecropia Moth

by Jeff Ausmus at

Female Cecropia Moth and Larva

Pictures courtesy of Joan Ausmus.

Descriptive Qualities:

Cecropia's range is the eastern half of the US. From mid-Texas to Florida to Maine to Minnesota. Cecropias are not found past the Rockies going west, the closely related Glover's Silk Moth is located there.

Map of this moth's Area:

Cecropia Life Cycle

Cecropia Eggs Cecropia Larvae, 1st Instar Cecropia Larva, 2nd Instar Cecropia Larva, 3rd Instar Cecropia Larva, 4th Instar Cecropia Larva, 5th Instar
Cecropia Cocoon Cecropia, Male Pupa Cecropia, Female Pupa Male Cecropia Moth Female Cecropia Moth Cecropia Moths Pairing

Eggs and Larva
Depending on the particular size of the moth, female Cecropia moths have approximately 250 - 350 eggs. In rare cases they can have anywhere from 500 up to 1000 eggs. When Cecropia larva first hatch they are black. Once they shed to 2nd instar they turn orange. Then in 3rd instar, the larva are either orange with red tuberacles, or green with red tuberacles, depending on how well they've eaten. Then in 4th and 5th instar they are pretty much the same, green with yellow, red, and blue tuberacles. Except in 5th instar the front red tuberacles turn orange. Cecropia larva are gregarious in 1st and 2nd instars, and solitary in 3rd thru 5th instars.

Scenting and Mating
Female Cecropias usually put their scent out from 4:00 A.M. til dawn. The males may come in at any time during this period. It is easiest to put the female in a metal cage with holes big enough that they can mate through it (about a half inch or 3/4 inch hole should do nicely) but small enough that the female cannot escape. That is the best way to do it if you don't have the luxury of staying up all night to watch them. I usually stay up and wait for the males to come in, and then put them with the female. This way is the only real way to tell how many came in. Cecropia moths mate readily in captivity.

Cecropia larva usually make their cocoons strongly fastened to the plants they're feeding on. At some times it incorporates a whole branch into it's cocoon. However, in rare cases it does crawl away from the plant and makes its cocoon nearby. Cecropias have only 1 brood, in all of their area.

Personal Markings or Characteristics
The Cecropia moth is the largest of the North American silk moths. They have white crescents on all four wings. They are distinguishable from others of the Hyalophora genus by their red scales located sporadically throughout their wings.

Caring For Cecropias, In All Stages:

Here are some notes that may be helpful when trying to raise Cecropia larva, especially if it's your first time raising them.

Caring for the eggs
To care for Cecropia eggs, just put them in a small container. It is best to be small, because the larva like to crawl a lot when they first hatch, and if you put them in a bigger container, they will crawl away from the food you put in with them, and might not be able to get back. That's a lot of area for such a small caterpillar.

Food Plants

Here is a list of all food plants that I have ever used to raise Cecropias on. In the odd occurance that you can not come by any of these, you should contact me. Experimenting with other foodplants could prove worthwhile.

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)
Oval-Leafed Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Apple (Malus sylvestris)
Crab Apple (Malus coronaria)
Garden Plum (Prunus domestica)
Peach Willow (Salix amygdaloides)
Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Raising Cecropia Larva (Inside)
Cecropia larva are not always easy to raise, they sometimes get a bacterial disease, if one of them gets it, you should separate it from the rest immediately, or it is likely they will all get it and die. This disease is shown by spitting up or runny droppings. I find it is easiest and beneficial to move them into a 1-gallon size container at the end of 1st instar or beginning of 2nd instar. Then move them into a 5-gallon size bucket for 5th instar.

Raising Cecropia Larva (Outside)
Cecropia larva are fairly easy to raise outside. You just find a suitable host plant and put the larva on it. It is best to put them on a branch and then put the branch inside some sort of netting, so that they are protected from predators like insects, birds, and rodents. For more information see Predators

Caring for the cocoons
Caring for the cocoons is pretty simple. You should put them in an area where it is fairly moist, if the cocoons dry out, they will die. If you just put them outside they should be fine. You cannot leave them inside, because they will hatch, but you can keep them in the refridgerator. If you do this, it is best to spray the cocoons with a light mist every once in a while so they don't dry out.

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