This richly colored, nocturnal beauty is North America’s largest silkmoth. Zadock Thompson, Vermont’s first naturalist, described this species in Vermont as a “butterfly” when he found a cocoon in March 1840 in a “pine plain” in Burlington and watched it eclose in captivity.

Females release an airborne pheromone that is capable of attracting males from miles. Mating occurs during the early morning hours after midnight. Females lay rows of 2-6 eggs on both sides of the leaves of small host trees or shrubs. Eggs hatch in 10-14 days. Young caterpillars feed in groups on leaves; older caterpillars are solitary. The cocoon is attached along its full length to a twig; to escape predation by rodents and birds, the cocoon is usually constructed in a dark, protected area. In Vermont cocoon observed on American Beech, Buttonbush, and Apple. Overwinters as pupae. One eclosure date reported in Vermont: 7 June 2007, Royalton (S. Faccio). Thompson (1842) found a cocoon on a bush in a “pine plain” in Burlington in March 1840. It eclosed on 20 April after being kept in a warm room. The female laid 200 eggs over its 7-day lifespan.

Identification

A large moth. Body is red with a white collar and white bands on the abdomen. Wings are dark brown with white hair-like scales giving a frosted appearance; forewings are red at the base. Crescent spots and the area outside the post median line are red on all wings.

Conservation Status

Resident – uncommon
Vermont S3
Global G5

Flight Period

One brood found from the beginning of March through the end of July in most of its range. Vermont: One flight. Found from late May through July. Extreme Dates: 19 May 2013 in Middlebury, VT; 29 July 2003, Burlington (S. Morrical).

Distribution and Habitat

Adaptable and can be found in a variety of successional habitats including urban and suburban environments as well as deciduous woodlands. Caterpillars feed on various trees and shrubs including Box Elder (Acer negundo), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Apples (Malus), Willows (Salix) and many others. Found sporadically throughout Vermont, the Cecropia Silkmoth appears to be neither common nor abundant.

View a live map of reported observations on iNaturalist Vermont.

View species account on iNaturalist.

Map of reported locations by block during the 2002-2007 survey.

Map of reported locations by block during the 2002-2007 survey.