Meet the cecropia moth, the largest moth in North America | MNN


Butterflies get all of the love. Whereas the sight of a monarch or a painted girl can set human hearts aflutter, moths are sometimes dismissed as a colorless nocturnal nuisance, one thing that exists solely to engulf porch lights and invade private house.

It is value trying previous moth mythology, although, and seeing these unusual bugs with contemporary eyes. They arrive in about 160,000 species worldwide, in contrast with roughly 20,000 species of butterflies. Most moths are nocturnal, and though many do have subtler coloring than their butterfly cousins, they’re additionally way more diverse, vivid and captivating than stereotypes recommend.

In North America, one eye-catching instance of moth glamour — and girth — is the cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia). With a wingspan as much as 7 inches (18 cm), this burly lepidopteran is the continent’s largest native moth. It naturally happens in hardwood forests from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast, ranging as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Florida.

Pictured above is a male cecropia moth, which have bigger antennae than females. But whereas that photograph captures a few of the cecropia’s distinct coloring and charisma, this latest video from Instagram person hleexyooj gives a clearer sense of scale:

The video has additionally appeared in a preferred Reddit post, the place commenters each marveled and shuddered on the moth’s dimension. “It is lovely but when it landed on me I might spaz out like an fool,” one wrote. Fortunately, cecropia moths — like most moths — do not actually trigger hassle for individuals, except for crowding our electrical lights in spring and early summer time. Adults solely reside for a number of weeks and are incapable of consuming, for the reason that sole objective of their life stage is to mate and lay eggs. The caterpillars are additionally innocent, and regardless of feeding on leaves all summer time, their naturally low abundance prevents vital injury to crops. According to the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, “this species shouldn’t be thought-about a severe pest in any elements of its vary.”

Low inhabitants density generally is a drawback when searching for love, so male cecropia moths should depend on highly effective senses to smell out a feminine’s pheromones — which he can detect from greater than a mile away. Sadly for him, nevertheless, some bolas spiders can mimic the pheromones of a feminine cecropia moth, thus luring unsuspecting suitors into their clutches.

female cecropia moth laying eggs
A feminine cecropia moth lays a few of her eggs on a stalk of wildflowers. (Picture: Cathy Keifer/Shutterstock)

After the surviving moths accomplice up and mate, a feminine can lay greater than 100 eggs, which she attaches in small teams to the leaves or stems of various host plants. These eggs ought to hatch inside one to 2 weeks, releasing larvae that then undergo a sequence of life levels often called “instars,” altering from black to yellow to inexperienced as they increase in dimension.

And when you thought grownup cecropia moths had been huge, lovely and weird, wait till you see their caterpillars:

Cecropia moth caterpillar
Regardless of its prickly look, the cecropia caterpillar is innocent to people. (Picture: Judy Gallagher/Flickr)

Lastly, on the finish of summer time, the full-grown, roughly 5-inch-long caterpillar will seal itself in a cocoon. An grownup cecropia moth will emerge the next spring, instantly plunging into the fast-paced world of maturity. If you happen to’re fortunate sufficient to see one, bear in mind there is no have to flail or freak out. Simply sit again and revel in its magnificence — and possibly flip off your porch mild.

Associated on MNN: How to identify 11 common butterfly species

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