cecropia moth

(Hyalophora cecropia)

Hodges #


cecropia moth
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed


N5 - Secure


not listed




Late May to early August


Woodlands, forests, fencerows, and suburbs


Wingspan: 45 16 to 5

Photo by Bill Reynolds


This is a common, extra large, giant silkworm moth. With a wingspan of 45 16 to 5 it is one of the two largest moths native to North America.

The thorax is red above with a conspicuous white collar. The white collar is the forward apex of a broad, white, lateral stripe that extends from the thorax to the last abdominal segment.

Each abdominal segment is red, outlined with a thin black line; has a fringe of white hairs at the end; and has a red spot in each lateral stripe.

The wings are dark brown, gray, and blackish with numerous white scales giving them a frosted appearance. The basal area of the forewing has at least some red shading and is bordered with a thin white and a thin black antemedial line. Both wings have red shading outside a strong white postmedian line. The forewing has a crescent-shaped spot in the median area near the leading edge. Each hindwing has a crescent-shaped spot near the outer margin of the discal cell. All four spots are red fading to white in the center and outlined with black. There is an eyespot in the subapical area near the tip of the forewing.

The head is red. There are no mouth parts and no hearing organs. The eyes are large and black. The antennae are feather-like and have branches on both sides of the central axis.

The legs are red.

Females have smaller, less bushy antennae and larger, more rounded abdomens.

The caterpillar is frosted green and up to 4 long. There is a pair of prominent knobs in the dorsal area on thoracic segments 2 and 3 (T2 and T3) and on abdominal segments 1 through 7 (A1–A7). Abdominal segment 8 (A8) has a single dorsal knob. The dorsal knobs on T2, T3, and A1 are more or less globe shaped and have several tufts of minute black spines (spinules). The dorsal knobs on A2–A8 are elongated and cylindrical. The dorsal knobs on T2 and T3 are yellowish-orange. Those on T3 and A1–A7 are bright yellow. There is also a solitary knob in the subdorsal and spiracular areas of T1–T3 and A1–A8, and in the subspiracular area of T1 through T3. These knobs are pale blue and rise from a pale blue base. The leg-like structures (prolegs) on the abdomen are yellowish-green at the base and greenish-yellow at the tip. Mature caterpillars can be found from late June through August.


Columbia silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia) is a similar species found mostly in the western half of North America. The area outside the postmedian band is gray and does not have any red shading. The crescent spots are white, not red fading to white. On the caterpillar, the dorsal knobs are yellowish-white to yellowish-pink, not bright yellow. The lateral knobs are more white and emerge from black bases.

Larval Food

Deciduous trees and shrubs including apple, ash, boxelder, cherry, poplar, willow, birch, elm, tamarack, and maple.

Adult Food

Adults do not feed.

Life Cycle

This moth is short-lived, lasting about two weeks, since it has no mouth parts and does not feed. There is one generation per year. The male uses its specialized antennae to detect pheromones released by the female. After breeding, the female lays a group of 3 to 30 large, somewhat flattened eggs in lines (rafts) of 3 to 10 eggs each on either side of a leaf of a host shrub or tree. The eggs hatch in 10 to 14 days and the newly emerged larvae begin feeding in groups on the leaves. Older caterpillars are solitary feeders. The larvae molt 5 or 6 times. In the fall the caterpillar spins a cocoon in which it will spend the winter. The cocoon is large and spindle-shaped. It is attached along its full length to a twig in a dark, protected area. The adult emerges in the spring.


When the adult is at rest the wings are open and flat.

Adults are nocturnal, taking flight a few hours after sunset. They are attracted to lights.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 21, 24, 29, 30, 75.

This moth is found mostly in the eastern half of North America.


Unintended Consequences
The number of cecropia moths has decreased in recent decades due to parasitism of a tachinid fly (Compsilura concinnata). The fly was introduced into North America in 1906 in an attempt to control the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar).



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)











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Bombycoidea (hawk-moths)


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Saturniidae (giant silkworm and royal moths)










cecropia moth

cecropia silkmoth









A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.



Minute spines.
























Visitor Photos

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Todd Jacobson

  cecropia moth    

Adele Dahm

  cecropia moth cecropia moth
  cecropia moth  


  cecropia moth  

Beth Chihak

  cecropia moth  

Marie Hlava

Seen about 415am

  cecropia moth  


  cecropia moth    


  cecropia moth  

Bill Reynolds

This one had a wing span about 6 inches.

  cecropia moth    


MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos








  Cecropia Moth - Hodges#7767 (Hyalophora cecropia)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Cecropia Moth - Hodges#7767 (Hyalophora cecropia)  
  Hyalophora cecropia (Cecropia Moth)
Allen Chartier
  Hyalophora cecropia (Cecropia Moth)  
  Cecropia Moth Cocoon Emergence: of Challenge and Change, Pt3.
David Britton

Uploaded on Jun 25, 2010

Cecropia moth emergence from a cocoon is detailed. Watch a pupa change color as it awakes from diapause and prepares to eclose as a moth. Witness how little flabby pads are transformed into large beautiful wings suitable for flight. See mating and propagation followed by recycling.

This video is part of a full complete metamorphosis lifecycle edition. To see more go to http://lifecycle.onenessbecomesus.com





Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Giant Cecropia Moth
Kimberly Pineda

Published on Jul 17, 2012

The Cecropia Moth is native to North America but rarely seen. The wings are about 6.5" on this moth. It was found near Port Stanley, ON in the garden. Research indicates this moth does not have a mouth once the metamorphosis from caterpillar to moth takes place. Its purpose is solely to reproduce. A very cool discovery!

  Hyalophora cecropia Moth Lifecycle

Uploaded on Apr 28, 2011

Hyalophora cecropia Moth Lifecycle

  Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Uploaded on Sep 7, 2009

9-7-2009 Video of a Cecropia Moth Caterpillar found outside Asheville, NC. These amazing caterpillars are over 4 inches long and become the largest moths in North America. They spin large brown cocoons that weather to gray. The moths take flight in May or June. There is one generation per year.

  Cecropia Moth Cocoon Cut Open and the Pupa Removed

Uploaded on Aug 22, 2011

A Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) cocoon can be cut open and the pupa removed without harming the moth inside. A cocoon is a silk 'sleeping bag' made by the caterpillar. Inside the cocoon, over the next few days the caterpillar pupates into a pupa. The pupa is simply the caterpillar without its skin - it literally wiggles out of its skin.

The cocoon can be cut open, the pupa removed, and the moth will emerge without problem. Popular opinion is wrong - it doesn't need to strengthen itself with the struggle to emerge from the cocoon. The cocoon is simply a 'nest' that protects the pupa from many (but not all) predators.

In this video, we cut open a Cecropia Silk Moth cocoon and take out the pupa. The abdomen of the pupa is flexible, the abdominal segments move back and forth easily. If the pupa is dead, the segments freeze into place and they cannot be moved.





Visitor Sightings

Share your sighting of this insect.

Terry Jandt

Location: Downtown New Prague , mn

Adele Dahm

Location: Elk River

cecropia moth

Todd Jacobson

Location: Buffalo River State Park, Glyndon, MN

cecropia moth


Location: Aitkin, MN

cecropia moth

Beth Chihak

Location: Olmsted County

cecropia moth

Marie Hlava

Location: Kwik Trip Pine Island MN

Seen about 415am

cecropia moth


Location: Brooklyn Center, MN

cecropia moth


Location: Pine City

cecropia moth


Location: Rochester, MN


Location: Edina, Mn


Location: Oakdale, Mn

Bill Reynolds

This one had a wing span about 6 inches.

cecropia moth


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