Learn about The Unique and Huge Cecropia Caterpillar

The third-place finisher is the up to 4.5-inch-long Cecropia larvae. The distinctive feature of this caterpillar is the striking color changes it experiences at each instar. It initially appears to be black and has numerous spikes on its face and back. It changes from dark yellow to yellow in the second instar and primarily consumes leaves. From the third to the fifth instar, this larva’s vivacious appearance of light green or blue-green as it matures is quite similar. Light blue, light yellow, light orange, and even red bumps can be seen near the larva’s head on top of its protuberances, which are covered in short black bristles. It eats maple, plum, apple, pecan, birch, and a variety of other fruits and nuts.

About Hyalophora Cecropia

The largest native moth in North America is called a Hyalophora cecropia, or cecropia moth. It belongs to the Saturniidae family, which also includes giant silk moths. Females have been observed to have wingspans of at least five to seven inches (160 mm). There are seven world’s largest caterpillars and one of which is the Cecropia caterpillar. These moths are widespread across North America, reaching as far west as Washington and as far north as most of the provinces of Canada. The cecropia moth larvae can be found on many different types of trees, but they are most frequently found on maple trees. Carl Linnaeus first described the species in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1758.

Life Cycle of Hyalophora Cecropia

The cecropia moth lacks digestive and functional mouth parts, just like other giant silk moth family members. As a result, they live for about two weeks. The female cecropia moth releases pheromones that the male detects with his keen antennae in order to attract a mate. Although a male cecropia moth may fly up to 7 miles in search of a female, he can detect these pheromones from up to a mile away. Early in the morning is when mating usually starts, and it lasts until dusk. The female will lay up to 100 eggs following mating. These reddish brown, mottled eggs are typically located on either side of a host leaf. Eventually, these eggs will hatch into tiny, black caterpillars.

  • Egg

The female lays the large, spotted reddish-brown eggs in small clusters on both sides of the host leaf.

  • Larvae

Normally, there are five larval instars, with each lasting about a week. 

  • First Instar

The larvae are black and gregariously feed in the first instar.

  • Second Instar

Larvae of the second instar range in color from dark yellow to yellow and also consume large amounts of food.

  • Third, Fourth, and Fifth Instar

Larvae in their third, fourth, and fifth instars all have a vivacious appearance. The fifth instar larvae can grow up to 4.5 inches in length, and the body is very large. Bright green or sea green color, pronounced dorsal protuberances, and distal black spines are all present. abdominal protuberances are yellow, side protuberances are pale blue, and thoracic protuberances are orange to red. The Columbia Silkmoth (H. Columbia) larvae are very similar to those of other silkmoth species, but they have red thoracic protuberances, yellow-pink abdominal protuberances, and side protuberances that are more white than blue with black bases.

  • Pupae

The pupae are large, dark brown, and enclosed in a silk cocoon that is long-adhered to the host plant’s stem or branch or another plant close by.

  • Adult Size

Although size varies, it is typically quite large, with a wingspan of up to 6 inches. Near the forewing base, the wings are reddish-brown. All of the wings have visible red spots with a whitish center in the shape of crescents, but the hindwings have the largest spots. The postmedial line, which runs longitudinally down the middle of all four wings, is followed by reddish bands of shading on all four wings. The body is hairy, initially colored in a reddish hue that fades to a reddish/whitish hue. Red and white bands alternate on the abdomen.

Hyalophora Cecropia

Characteristics and Behavior of Hyalophora Cecropia

Almost exclusively nocturnal, the cecropia moth is infrequently observed during the day. The largest moth in North America is the cecropia moth. Its wingspan is between 5 and 6 inches. It is an incredibly vibrant moth. Its body is red with white stripes on it. Reddish-brown wings with white spots and eyespots in the shape of crescents on the upper tips. Its wings’ tips have a light tan color to them. The cecropia caterpillar is about four inches long, greenish-blue in color, and has two rows of spiny tubercles on its body in red, yellow, and blue. 

Range and Habitat of Hyalophora Cecropia

East of the Rocky Mountains, in both the United States and Canada, is where you can find the cecropia moth. Open areas with trees are where you can find the cecropia moth.

Diet of Hyalophora Cecropia

The leaves of numerous trees and shrubs, including ash, birch, box elder, alder, elm, maple, poplar, wild cherry, plum, willow, apple, and lilac, are consumed by the cecropia caterpillar. The cecropia moth is a carnivore. It exists only to mate. It only has a brief lifespan. All summer long, caterpillars eat leaves. Adult moths do not consume any food.

Life History of Hyalophora Cecropia

Male cecropia moths need extraordinary senses to locate a mate. Male moths can detect pheromones, which are organic chemicals produced by female moths, from over a mile away. Despite the fact that many of the eggs won’t grow into adult caterpillars, females still produce over a hundred eggs. The caterpillar is black when it first hatches. In between successive molts, they grow larger and transform from black to yellow to green in color. 

The five-inch-long caterpillar seals itself inside a cocoon at the end of the summer and emerges as a moth in the spring. The adult stage only serves to facilitate mating and egg production. If a predator doesn’t swoop them up, adult moths will perish after two weeks because they are unable to eat. It is a stable species. Because they are so uncommon, cecropia caterpillars don’t significantly harm ornamental landscaping. If you are interested in this unique animal, might as well you read about the most unusual dog breeds because both have strange qualities. 

Management of Hyalophora Cecropia

Caterpillars of the cecropia moth don’t need to be controlled. They do very little damage to ornamental plants, and seeing the moths in the spring is enjoyable thanks to their support of their continued existence. The moths and caterpillars do not harm people or animals.

Caterpillars should be kept in a sizable container with a sufficient amount of fresh foliage from one of the aforementioned plants if you want to raise cecropia moths. The formation of the cocoon will be aided by a stick wedged diagonally through the rearing container. Cocoons that are grown outside or are found there should stay there until late April. They should not be kept inside the house over the winter but can be kept in a garage or unheated porch. The success rate of moths emerging from cecropia cocoons is frequently less than 50%.

Fun Fact About Hyalophora Cecropia

The pheromones released by insects like the cecropia moth can be imitated by bolas spiders. The male moths eventually follow the pheromones’ scent and become the spider’s next meal.