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Cecropia moth

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Hyalophora cecropia

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Description

The cecropia moth is the largest moth in Quebec. It can be recognized easily by its size, its body and legs that are covered with red hairs and its black and white striped abdomen. It has a white collar around the upper part of its thorax. Its reddish brown wings are marked with a white line. A white or red and white crescent appears on each wing. Moths of both sexes have feathery antennae.

When it first hatches (2), the caterpillar is black and measures just 5 mm. It begins eating immediately and moults four times before reaching its maximum size (3) after about eight weeks. At this stage, the caterpillar is 8 cm long and sometimes as long as 10 cm. It is green with two rows of yellow bristles on its back and two pairs of large reddish-orange bristles near its head. There are small blue bristles on the sides of its body.

Once it reaches maturity, the caterpillar stops eating and leaves its host plant. It looks for a branch to spin a silk cocoon around itself, (4) inside which it metamorphoses into a chrysalis. The cocoon is around 8 cm long, brown and streamlined. In Quebec, the chrysalis overwinters inside this cocoon. In May or June the following year, the moth (1) emerges, ready to mate.

Geographic distribution

This moth lives in all of the provinces except for British Columbia and Newfoundland. In Quebec, it is mainly found south of James Bay. It is considered to be a fairly common moth in southwest Quebec, although it is generally solitary. It can also be found in the United States all the way down to Florida and in Mexico.

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