Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What is THAT? Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar-Carol Kagan
Master Gardener Diane Fusting was showing off her beautiful gardens full of flowers, shrubs and trees, including a small, newly planted black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) when guests spotted a LARGE caterpillar munching away on some leaves. We noticed several of the small branches were leafless and surmised the caterpillar was the "muncher."

We found two more on the little tree. After pictures were taken and lunch eaten, the trio was removed. One headed to Barbara Petrucci's house so granddaughters Zoe and MacKenzie could check them out. Zoe may even name it. What name would you choose for this truly unique creature?

The remaining two rode on to my house where I took a few more pictures with my macro lens. After I identified them as the caterpillars of cecropia moths, discovered they really don't do much damage to established trees, I relocated them to the cherry trees on the side of our house. Maybe I will get to see the full life cycle and the resulting moth.
Cecropia Moth
The cecropia caterpillar eats the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including ash, birch, box elder, alder, elm, maple, poplar, wild cherry, plum, willow, apple, lilac and, apparently, black gum. The cecropia moth does not eat. It's only purpose it to mate. It only lives for a few weeks.
Cecropia moth - largest in N. America
The cecropia moth is the largest North American moth with a wingspan of 5 to 6 inches. It has a red body with white stripes, bronze wings with white marks and eyespots. It comes out at night and is rarely seen. I think it is worth looking for around the porch light.

It's fun being a Franklin County Master Gardener!

More information at
MG Blog on Moths
Univiversity of Florida - Fact Sheet including all life cycle stages
Univ. of Nebraska Dept. of Entomology: Cecropia Images
Penn State Entomology Cecropia moth


  1. MacKenzie named "Humphrey" a Hickory Horn Devil a few years ago: http://franklincountymgs.blogspot.com/2010/08/humphrey-caterpillar.html

  2. Beautiful and amazing photo. Thank you for sharing.

  3. And remember National Moth Week coming up. It's the subject of this week's news column: http://franklincountymgs.blogspot.com/2013/07/2013-national-moth-week-july-20-27.html

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  7. National Moth Week, huh? Check out my blog for today.

  8. Ooh. Science and Literature. We're such a cultured bunch. Cheers, Carol!

    Reference: http://franklincountymgs.blogspot.com/2013/07/waiting-for-g-o-od-m-ot-h-national-moth.html

  9. found one of theses caterpillars at The links at Crowbush cove PEI..