Class of 2007 at bottom of page.
Silk Moths of New England
The Cecropia Moth is a beautiful creature seldom seen by the average citizen. It's life span as an adult is usually less than a week as it does not feed, and night time is it's hours of business. Mating is the only goal of the adult moth. Adult moths come out of their cocoons in spring and summer. Most cocoons will "hatch out" on either May 15th or on the day of the summer solstice. This insures survival of some of the eggs in case of a late frost. The eggs soon hatch in little caterpillars who feed voraciously on the host plant. This could be oaks, cherry, beech and other trees. The caterpillars grow quickly and can attain lengths of 5-6 inches. They are green with different colored spikes protruding from it's back. The colors are quite striking making for an interesting sight.
As the fall approaches the caterpillars seek out a safe place to make their cocoon in which they will make the change to an adult. As seen in the picture below the caterpillars try to disguise themselves as a ball of dried up leaves to confuse their enemies. It is at this time that the pupa is at risk. Birds, mice, and other small mammals like to feed on the pupa contained within the cocoon. The moth in the top picture came out of the pupa seen above. Now is the time to go explore the fields and woods and find your cocoons. Take and put one in a fine screened box and leave it out side. Look for it to hatch on the days mentioned above. If your fortunate to hatch out a female, males will fly in from miles away using their large antennae to home in on their target. This can present a beautiful picture. For more information on moths click here.
North American Moths
Promethea Moth (male) See Elmer's butterfly and moth page
Cecropia Moth Cocoons
This is the cocoon of the Polyphemus moth on the right . Found as a caterpillar in Vermont. He was seeking a spot to make his cocoon. These are difficult to find as they make them in the leaf litter at the bottom of the trees.
This x-ray of 3 Cecropia Moth cocoons show the one on the left is empty, the one in the middle contains pupae of a parasitic wasp. and the one on the right contains a viable pupa. The mass "hatching to start in May 2007. The bottom left image is the x-ray of the Polyphemus cocoon. Out of 12 Cecropia cocoons collected 7 viable, 3 with parasites, 2 were empty. On a field trip to Ryan's Meadow in Vermont to gather Promethea cocoons, we found 10. Only one was viable. Most had hatched the previous summer and 4 had parasitic wasps.
See the graduates of 2007 radiographs above! All males on the cecropia moths, a male promethea, and waiting on my one in a lifetime polyphemus moth.
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Story and photos by Elmer Mudguaard