Cecropia Moth Adult:
Of Intricate Color, Beauty and brevity.

It is late Spring!
After nine months in diapause the time for fullfilment and climax of all this
incredible transformation is at hand.

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Can you identify what is going on below? This is a cecropia moth emerging from its pupa skin. Normally you would never see this because the event happens deep within a cocoon. After nine months overwintering the moth is now eclosing and will soon be on its way to propagate the species and die. For much more detail of the cecropia moth metamorphosis search below.

Above is the final frame from part one of a two part slideshow in which you can see a series of photos showing highlights of pupa to moth transition. Just click on the thumbnail pictures below to access the full size image. Underneath each photo you will find navigation links allowing you to advance from one photo to the next at your leisure.

Notice how the pupa darkens as eclosure day approaches. This sequence showing pupa color up and eclosure was taken between the dates of May 16th and 28th. Breaking free of the pupal skin was just under a minute.

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Part 2 shows wing expansion detail as recorded May 28th 2010. Total time from initial emergence to full wing size was approx 30 minutes.

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Cecropia Moth Cocoon Emergence: of Challenge and Change.

Cecropia moth emergence from a cocoon is detailed. Watch a pupa change color as it awakes from diapause and prepares to eclose as a moth. Witness how little flabby pads are transformed into large beautiful wings suitable for flight.

 

Cecropia moth emergence from a cocoon is detailed. Watch a pupa change color as it awakes from diapause and prepares to eclose as a moth. Witness how little flabby pads are transformed into large beautiful wings suitable for flight. See mating and propagation followed by recycling.
This video is part of a full complete metamorphosis lifecycle edition found on the "home" page on this site.

New HD videos showing detailed events in the life of a Cecropia moth can be seen by clicking here.

Included are "real time" action scenes of a 1. Skin shed from 4th instar ecdysis. 2. The Caterpillar eating its old exuvia skin 3. Caterpillar to pupa eclose. 4. Cocoon construction and 5. Adult moth emergence and wing exspansion . Link here.

Mating occurred in the early morning hours of May 31st. Copulation lasted a full nineteen hours. (The male is on the left with the female to the right.) The full life of the adult moths was pretty much over in just nine more days.

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Questions concerning hatch time differences between my captive raised cecropias and last year's wild motherl

June 21st 2009 was the date I collected the original female cecropia which enabled me to raise a few of her offspring. Yet, all of my six cocoons hatched the following year roughly every day between May 24rth through the 30th. Adult lifespans are short (see below) so this gives a discrepency of about three weeks for hatch dates from one generation to the next.

Why is this the case? I had the cocoons outside, especially during the fall, winter and spring months, with hopes of allowing the captive raised insects to hatch out at the same time as the wild ones.  By May the weather was consistently warm and mild so, after a few weeks, I brought them inside to observe hatching. A few days later there was a cool spell lasting two or three days in which nighttime tempratures dropped into the upper forties to low fifties F. (The cocoons were left inside.)Might this last cool spell have caused the wild moths to reset their internal clock and wait another two to three weeks before emergence? All I know is that when I set out the captive female outside to attract adult male moths none came. Yet, this result must take into account three adult males released one to two days earlier which did not show up either.

In searching the internet, it was found out there is evidence to support two separate flight times for these moths; one during the latter part of May and the other in mid June. It is hard to know if these dual emergence periods are regularily passed from one generation to the next or not. It is interesting to note that the time discrepency in my limited experience is close to that seen between the two separate flights. Might this phenomena simply be the result of diapause effected by temperature/sunlight in the microclimate in which individual cocoons may or may not be "reset" by the season's last cool spell?

Cecropia moth adult energy saving observations

Most of the adult life is spent in dormancy waiting for late nightime hours in which to either mate or lay eggs. When at rest the moth is in a torpor or hibernative state. If disturbed it will reflexively convulsively flap its wings once, release its hold, and fall helplessly to the fround. Then it may wave its wings up and down for a minute or so. At this point the insect may either become quiet once again or begin quivering as a warm-up maneuver in readiness for flight.

All saturniid moths must be very frugal in their energy reserve usage, Remember, they have only the reserves carried within themselves obtained a year ago as a caterpillar. Thus, the inexorable dictum is "more activity speeds up an already short life". It is essential to put this precious energy to productive reproductive use.

Below are photos of a moth whose energy reserves are spent. By June 8th this moth was too weak to fly.It now ends its hours fluttering ever more feebly on the forest floor.Compare the size of the abdomen with that of the newly hatched moths above.

New HD videos showing detailed events in the life of a Cecropia moth can be seen by clicking here.

Included are "real time" action scenes of a 1. Skin shed from 4th instar ecdysis. 2. The Caterpillar eating its old exuvia skin 3. Caterpillar to pupa eclose. 4. Cocoon construction and 5. Adult moth emergence and wing exspansion . Link here.

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The time is mid May of the year 20010. Nine months have passed by with the cocoons being kept outside. I selected May 13th as a good time to bring in and begin monitoring the coloring up process of a couple pupae. Outside temperatures were in the 70,s and 80,s F. with night time lows in the upper 50,s F. It is hoped this procedure will enable the captive bred moths to emerge at the same time as the wild ones outside.

Last Fall, two cocoons had been cut open to reveal the prepupae within. Both pupae that formed turned out rather dark in color.

This Spring I opened up two more to check for comparisons and sex. One was a lighter colored male.while the other was very dark. This second one eclosed the very next day. I am watching and taking pictures daily to, hopefully, show the gradual coloration prior to moth eclosure.

It will be interesting to see if the pupae that were originally darker colored hatch earlier than the lighter colored ones.

hatch dates and notes for the six specimens are:

1. May19th. Male:  This was from the large dark cocoon spun first with cocoon cut open the day before eclosure. Thus the original color tone is unknown.)

2. May 24rth. male: noticed flying about. This pupa overwintered outside the cocoon. Pupal skin was always a rather dark tone. The deep color was seen within a few days after eclosure from the pre-pupa. The cocoon was spun right on the side of a paper bag. Damage of the pupa at the area of antennae formation was seen. One antennae was imperfect but the moth was released in good condition.I used this specimen as a first attempt (unsuccessful) at filming the prepupa to pupa shed. This moth is pictured at the top of this page.

3.May 26th: male: Pupa #3 is observed with reddish marking beneath a very dark skin. The body is distended and soft to the touch. Occasional rhythmic contractions between the segments are observed. Succesful filming of the prepupa to pupa sequence was achieved with this one. The moth hatched between 8:30AM and !0:00AM May 27th. I missed the emergence while having breakfast.

4. May 26th male: Pupa #4 is showing much the same symptoms as #3. The skin is not quite as dark as in #3 but is still much darker than the earlier lighter hued brown. This pupa was taken out of the cocoon for observation May 15th. It was a lighter colored male in perfect shape. Genitalia are easily visible on the abdomon and the antennae are large.

May27th: The pupa seems to be exhibiting short periods of strong wiggling activity interspersed with much milder rhthmic waves of motion. These episodes usually occur about a half hour apart. Times recorded are at 11:30am, 11:55pm,...  Room temperature during this activity was near 80 degrees F. Is the pupa saving its energy reserves by just working a little at a time with long rest periods in between? This idea would seem to follow behavior characteristics of the adult moth. As of 3:00pm the pupa is exreemely soft and fragile. The skin, especially in the very soft abdominal area "crinkles" when touched. By 4:00pm It seems the skin is now seperated and no longer a part of the main body of the pupa. Also, outward motion activity seems to have slowed. Red areas have appeared near the head region. The body is extremely soft. The pupa should wait overnight before eclosing.

May 28th: The pupa eclosed at about 6:40AM. The wings were fullt spread by 7:15AM. I was able to capture the process on camera! The splitting of the dry dead pupal skin could actually be heard.

5. May 27th: I opened up a 5th pupa. It is definitely a female! This pupa was housed in a smaller light colored cocoon,

6.The 6th cocoon hatched out at about 10:30 AM May 29th. It is another male. That adds up to five males and one female total. This one I let emerge naturally from within the cocoon thus I had no clue as to when eclosure would happen. I caught it within minutes though as the wings were in the process of expansion.This is the male that succesfully mated with the (#5) female.

June 8th: the above male has become very weak and unable to fly.The abdomen is shrunken as its food supply is used up. He was dead the next day.

#5 continued; the only female: May 29th: 8:00AM The female pupa is dark colored with red spots and highlights showing the adult moth to come. It is very heavy feeling and flacid. No motion activity has been noticed.

May 30th: The female eclosed at about 7:52AM. I witnessed the whole event and took pictures all the way through. All events seemed to take slightly longer with the female than with the males. Minute rhthmic motions were seen an hour before serious contractions ensued. The hatching process itself was interspersed with more rest periods than seen with the males. Eclosure time was about three minutes with wing expansion taking about an hour..

Later this evening I shall set the female outside allowing her to broadcast pheromones and announce her presence "call" a male to come to her. I also have kept two males from release incase, if she fails to attract a wild mate, one may fertilize her.

May31st: At 5:30AM I went outside to check and see if any wild males had come to my female. None were to be found. It is difficult to know why. The captive bred moths may not be in sync with the wild population or neighborhood cats spotted near the cage might have eaten outside visitors. I had released two males earlier but they failed to show up as well.

10AM I noticed the female copulating with one of two brothers I put in with her just a half hour earlier. The succesful male had hatched one day before the female on May 29th. He was the last male to emerge. The pair seperated at 12;45am June 1st. This gives a mating time of close to 19 hours.

June 1st: the female began laying eggs. She deposited them in clumps of from 4 to about ten on the bottom of the fish tank. I put in a paper bag for her to continue laying on.

June 7th: the female was found dead after laying her last batch of eggs.

June 11th: the first eggs started to hatch. I began feeding the larvae dogwood. As of June 26th they are doing well. The fasted growing has just now reached 3rd instar. Most are in the 2nd instar of growth.

New HD videos showing detailed events in the life of a Cecropia moth can be seen by clicking here.

Included are "real time" action scenes of a 1. Skin shed from 4th instar ecdysis. 2. The Caterpillar eating its old exuvia skin 3. Caterpillar to pupa eclose. 4. Cocoon construction and 5. Adult moth emergence and wing exspansion . Link here.

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