Cecropia moth caterpillars looking for a home

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I’m delighted to report that the eggs laid by the female Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) produced lots of caterpillars (I’m guessing at least 70) eleven days later.tiny-cecropia-moths

When you look at the empty egg shells you can imagine how tiny the caterpillars were – about 1/8th inch long. Nine days later, they are 1/2 inch long and just beginning to shed their dark skin for a new yellow one that will let them grow even larger.


These caterpillars are feeding on wild cherry leaves. Others are feeding on red maple. I plan to raise four caterpillars, and would be glad to find homes for the rest. Otherwise I will put them on host trees and hope some survive to become adult moths.

Raising the caterpillars requires a steady supply of their preferred leaves for about 6 weeks. They will then enclose themselves in a cocoon that should be put outside for the winter. If you wish to see the adults, keep the cocoon in a protected cage. With luck they will emerge next June.

This collage gives some idea of the timeline for their life cycle.


Here’s a neat video of the Cecropia moth life cycle by David Britton. It’s 13 minutes long and I found it worth the watch.

Raising Cecropia moths has been an enjoyable and enlightening experience for me. If you are interested in some of the caterpillars, please contact me by the end of the week.

10 thoughts on “Cecropia moth caterpillars looking for a home”

  1. Betty—I’m too far away (Mercer County) to collect any caterpillars from you, or I would take a few. When I see pictures like this of those ugly, hairy little “worms” I cringe to remember how many of them I must have killed in my early gardening days, many years ago, thank goodness. Back then I thought all bugs eating my plants must be bad. Nowadays, I am thrilled to see them and have filled our yard with as many native plants as we can squeeze in. Eat away, little friends!

    1. I appreciate your comment, Susan. I can certainly relate and I expect many others can as well. I agree with this quote by Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only we have been taught.”

  2. I will try a few Betty. Do you think they would eat my red maple leaves? I’ve got about 10 spicebush swallowtail caterpillars on the go. I think 4 are now in the chrysalis stage. Love ’em!

    1. Delighted to hear it, Ann. Yes, I can give you some that are currently feeding on red maple leaves. You can always put them out on the tree at any stage if you need to. I’d like to think the longer we help them survive, the greater the chances of them making it all the way.

      I’m delighted you have the spicebush caterpillars. Still don’t have any on my spicebush or sassafras and you and I don’t live that far apart. Who knows???

  3. So very beautiful to watch. So much work Betty for such a short life! I wish we could raise them here, but it’s way too cold; I have never seen them. I worry about the beautiful Monarch butterfly as they should have been seen here two weeks ago. I looked at the milk weed leaves around our area and no eggs are showing. Oh My! what’s happening?

    1. Louise, we are not seeing Monarchs in Lexington, either. This is the first time in 7 years that I haven’t had them in the backyard by now. Scary.

  4. Thanks Betty! As always…..great photos! I volunteer at the Norfolk Botanical Garden Butterfly House….they currently have some cats and cocoons so just recently learned more about the Cecropia Moth ; ). Can’t wait to show your photos to my 6 year old granddaughter.

    Chris Howells

    1. Chris, wish I could give you some caterpillars to raise. I don’t think it would a good idea to ship though – especially across state lines. I understand a very heft fine if caught. doing that.

  5. i saw they eat ash, birch, box elder, alder, elm, maple, poplar, wild cherry, plum, willow, apple, and lilac. can i come by this wknd & get a couple? thanks

    1. Leslie, glad to know you are interested in raising them. Yes, there are several host plants for the Cecropias. However, these have been feeding on either black cherry or red maple and they don’t seem to want to switch to other plants. I think getting them to switch to any cherry or maple would likely work but can’t be certain. If you still want a couple this weekend, contact me through my website to work out a specific time.

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