Adult cecropia moths are butterfly-like but have stout, hairy bodies and feathery antennae. The body is red with a white “collar” and white bands on the abdomen. Seen from above, the overall color of the wings is dark brown or gray, with a reddish patch at the base of each forewing. At roughly the center of each of the four wings is a reddish-rimmed, whitish crescent. The postmedian line (the bold line that runs parallel to the outer edge of the wings) is lined with red on its outer margin.
Larvae are very large and they are bluish green. At the top of the second and third thoracic segments there are two round, reddish-orange tubercles with black points. Atop the abdominal segments there is a double row of yellow tubercles. Along the sides are rows of blue tubercles.
Habitat and Conservation
Butterfly and moth collecting is a hobby that many people enjoy, and the cecropia moth is the “jewel” of many collections. Many more people take just as much pleasure out of spying a live moth resting on a backyard tree.
This is one of the giant silkworm moths that may be declining in parts of its range because of parasitism of a tachnid fly that was introduced to battle the invasive, destructive, nonnative gypsy moth.
In 1956, researchers reported a major breakthrough in their understanding of insect metamorphosis: they had isolated a hormone that, when it's being produced in large enough quantities, permits a caterpillar to keep growing and repeatedly molting into larger caterpillars ― but when the insect's body stops producing the hormone, it molts into a winged, sexually mature adult. The hormone is now called "juvenile hormone" or JH. The initial 1956 discovery was made using larvae of a cecropia moth!
The name: Cecrops was an Athenian king in Greek mythology. Another Missouri butterfly, the red-banded hairstreak's scientific name also comes from this mythological figure.