Cecropia Moth (March 24, 2013)

Two Cecropia moths were submitted last week. This is one of the largest moths in North America, often with a wingspan exceeding five inches. They are attracted to lights at night and are frequently collected on porches and other lighted places. The larvae feed on box elder, dogwood, maple, birch, cherry and other trees. The moths flying now overwintered in cocoons and completed their development to the adult stage when the weather started to warm up. Full-grown caterpillars can be four inches in length or longer. There is a very good set of preferred host plants listed at Bugguide here: http://bugguide.net/node/view/4625 . This link also presents photos of the caterpillars and discusses the toxins and an antibiotic found in caterpillar haemolymph (blood) that can be transferred to one's fingers if they are handled. This is one species where it is best to leave the caterpillars alone. 

Cecropia Moth. Photo credit: Hayat Qurunful