We had such a treat recently when Mom found this beautiful cecropia moth on one of our apple trees. They are familiar to us because Abby has a hobby of collecting moth cocoons and hatching them in her window.
This is the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) and is North America’s largest native moth and can have a wingspan of six inches or more. I didn’t think to measure this one, too bad.
She had just emerged from her cocoon, a tough fibery home where she spent the winter. June is the month of moths, and time for her to emerge. An apple tree was a good choice to winter near, because when her offspring are born they will feed here on leaves they like. I looked around but was unable to find her cocoon as it was well camouflaged.
When these moths emerge from their cocoons in the morning, the wings are small and wet and hard to distinguish. When she finds a good resting place, she will begin to work her wings around to stretch them and enable the blood to pump into them. As she does this, the wings will gradually spread to their full size and dry out. She will rest a bit, then work her wings around some more til they are in full display – so beautiful!
Yes, this moth is bigger than Penny! Look at the amazing design of those wings!!
“This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Here is a close up of the body and red furry legs. Notice the fern-like antennae.
These scales on the wings are like fuzzy hairs.
Here’s looking at you!
Those eyes are compound eyes, made up of many hexagon lenses, that all collect light for seeing.
The antennae are the radars that detect scents and gather information about her world. They also are used for balance and for orienting her when she flies.
Can you see her mouth? Butterflies have a tube that curls out to drink nectar like a straw. But these moths have no mouthparts and do not feed, as she will only live about two weeks, long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Penny is enjoying her perch so near the moth and seeing her spread, then fold her wings. It was windy that day too, so the wings were fluttering in the wind at times.
The next day I checked and there she was yet, now with a mate!
After the female is out of her cocoon and her wings are dry and full, she will produce a scent called pheromone. A male moth can detect that scent from miles away. Amazing. You will notice that his antennae are much larger and finely “feathered”.
The female cecropia will lay more than one hundred eggs. She will lay them in small groups on the underside of leaves that will be food for the little ones when they emerge. She will fly a short distance to lay others so they will not all be too near. The caterpillars will hatch in one to two weeks, they will be black and tiny as a mosquito. There are so many because they will not all live to grow up. As they grow the caterpillars change from black to yellow to green, and when they are five inches long, fully grown, it will be time for them to spin their cocoon and continue the life cycle of the adult moth next spring.
And they sing, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Revelation 15:3,4