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The Beautiful Cecropia Moth, North America’s largest moth (video)

The cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia Linnaeus) is a beautiful lepidopteran of North America. He or she is part of the Saturniidae family, which is treasured by collectors and naturalists for its large size and striking look.

Adults are occasionally spotted attracted to lights in the spring and early summer. There are numerous hypotheses as to why these insects visit lights.An artificial light may interfere with the moths’ internal navigational systems. Moths, like many other night-flying insects, use the moon’s light to navigate.

Because the moon is optically infinite, its distant rays enter the moth’s eye in parallel, making it a navigational aid. A moth may circle in circles when it approaches an artificial point source of light, such as a street lamp.

Because male cecropia moths can detect a female’s pheromones from almost a mile away, they must rely on extraordinary senses to find a mate. It’s just as well for him, because some bolas spiders can fool nave suitors into thinking they’re female cecropia moths.

Cecropias thrive in settings of mixed woodland and open land. Cecropias may be found practically anywhere in our state due to their host tree diversity. For example, maples thrive in parks and backyards but also in our state’s natural forests. As willows are common near water, so are cecropias. Night lights attract this nocturnal species. They are diminishing in some areas because of habitat loss and herbicides.

The larvae feed on over 20 Missouri tree and shrub species, including box elder, maples, willows, cherries, plums, apples, dogwoods, and lilacs. Other huge silk moths have small or nonexistent mouthparts; they live only a few weeks without feeding, relying on food stored as caterpillars.

Adults fly from early April to early June; adult moths live for about two weeks. They are nocturnal and produce odors to “call” potential mates. Eggs are laid in rows on host plant leaves. A week after hatching, the larvae forage in groups. Larger caterpillars disperse and eat individuals. The cocoons are brownish-gray and linked by silk to a twig in a hidden spot. Although our state has only one brood, the adults emerge from April to June. The pupa of this moth overwinters.

Many individuals like collecting butterflies and moths, and the cecropia moth is a favorite among collectors. Many more, like spotting a live moth on a backyard tree. A tachnid fly that was put in to fight the aggressive, destructive non-native gypsy moth may be parasitizing this huge silkworm moth.

When a caterpillar quits producing enough of the hormone, it molts into a winged, sexually mature adult. The hormone is currently known as JH. The first finding used cecropia moth larvae in 1956.

In Greek mythology, Cecrops was an Athens ruler. The red-banded hairstreak’s scientific name is similarly derived from this mythological figure.

Caterpillars that graze on tree leaves provide natural trimming. Adults are a substantial meal for predators. Several parasite species keep cecropia numbers in check. Squirrels consume the pupae.

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