Last September, a fellow Lepidoptera enthusiast, Tor, had given me a remarkable gift. Several twigs with Cecropia Moth cocoons attached. When I placed the leaf coated, brown silky cocoons all together in a pewter pitcher, I had a uniquely created cocoon bouquet. Most bouquets quietly die over days or weeks but not this one. Set in a cool, dry, and dark front hall, the Cecropia cocoon bouquet quietly stayed alive . . . in wait for spring along with the humans that shared the old farmhouse. It was around the first of May that I took the bouquet from the front hall and placed it in my bright and airy barn studio. Tor had told me that I could lightly shake the cocoon and feel a certain weight moving within the cocoon. That would tell me the pupa inside was still alive.
I watched and waited until the end of May, when suddenly coming in from the garden there was a large and gorgeous male Cecropia moth hanging from one of the cocoons. Wings fully pumped up and hanging to dry. It was love at first sight.
As the Luna Moth is more ethereal and ghostly and seemingly linked to the spiritual world, the Cecropia Moth is more earthy wearing a rich colorful tapestry-like robe. The body of the Cecropia is painted in terra cotta colors with a white background. I had only ever seen these beauties frantically flapping their wings against the screens of my well lit interior spaces. Here in daylight I could see the intricate designs, colors, and textures up-close in vivid detail.
The wind comb-like antennae help in identifying this moth as a male. Female moths (below) have thinner antennae. Such a regal creature with its hairy white trimmed robe or wings and red head and what about those red stockings.
Day by day I would find another male Cecropia and then finally a female emerged from her tightly woven cocoon. It is hard to first climb out of a pupa casing and then escape the silk cocoon. I could never find an exit hole but have read that the moths have a silk dissolving juice they use to create a tiny opening through the cocoon. The native moths are the largest in North America, with a wing span of up to seven inches.
Emerging usually in the morning these moths would then have the day to acclimate to their new forms and for their wings to fully dry. As night fell each moth became animated.
It was a thrill, as with the Luna moths, to hold and watch as these gorgeous creatures flew out into the night. Their sole purpose as a moth is to sleep by day and find a mate by night. Cecropia moths, like all Saturniidae, have no mouthparts. All of the nutrients from the caterpillars munching on maples, cherry, apple and birch, to name but a few, will carry the adult Cecropia through its brief life. When seeing these night beauties disappear into the darkness I am always intrigued by the exquisite beauty for a creature that only wakes and socializes at night.
Here again is another reason I will be careful not to leave on outside lights.