My encounter with America’s largest moth

When I mention “bugs”, I usually mean the microscopic kind. However, last week and this weekend have put me on a macroscopic “bug” kick.

We were out camping this weekend in central Iowa. My kids found this beast by the bathroom:

For size comparison, that’s my cell phone at the top of the pic:

Apparently, it’s a Cecropia silkmoth, the largest moth in N. America (range here). It was nice enough to sit around and pose for a few pictures before it flew off:

According to this site (describing the rearing of a Cecropia moth), it’s probably a male–those antennae look pretty giant to me.

This inspired us to do spend some more time with lepidopterans this weekend; more on them tomorrow.

10 Replies to “My encounter with America’s largest moth”

  1. Ohhhhh…that’s a big fella. And the colouration is very neat. Once saw a Luna moth at the cottege one night. Heard it first to be more accurate, as it made a huge clunk noise when it landed on the deck. Scarred the bezeesus out of the wife. I think they are moth relatives.

  2. Nice. And, judging from the other saturniid moths I’ve seen, you’re right about it being a male.

    Sadly, I think their flight season is over here in North Carolina: I only saw one cecropia, in early spring, long before most moths seemed to be out. One of the few good things about a crappy 3rd-shift gas station job is that the canopy lights turn the parking lot into an insect menagerie at night. A couple of mated female moths have left me with some really impressive caterpillars–some thumb-sized luna moth caterpillars are getting close to pupation on a sweetgum twig in a bottle of water on my TV stand, and a brood of polyphemus larva have just hatched in one of those disposable plastic kitchen containers.

    I really want to find a mated female cecropia, though: as pretty as an adult luna or polyphemus is, cecropias are much more impressive.

  3. These moths used to be much more abundant, but they are unfortunately the victim of a poorly-planned biological control program. A parasitic tachinid fly that was supposed to attack Gypsy moth went for our native Saturniids instead. Very, very sad.

  4. Beautiful. We live among sweetgums, so I see luna moths and their caterpillars fairly often during the summer, but other silkmoths are a rare treat.

    The lunas are huge too. The first time I saw one blundering around a street light, I thought it was an albino bat. The caterpillars must go walkabout when they are ready to pupate, because I have found cocoons in empty flowerpots and stuck under the eaves of our house.

  5. i have mottephobia a very big fear of moths i get so freaked out about them they r beautiful but they scare me a large one flew in my car one day the way i acted people would have thought i was having a fit i was so scared thank god it flew out

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