That's a BIG Caterpillar

Today I was doing some garden work when I spotted this caterpillar. He was nearly 5 inches long and one of the biggest I have ever seen. The caterpillar is a cecropia moth in it's larval stage. A cecropia moth is the largest moth in North America and rarely seen during the day since it is active at night. A cecropia has a 5 to 6 inch wing span. As a moth, their life span is about two weeks. The reason for the short life span is because they do not eat. Their purpose is to mate and lay eggs. Females emit a pheromone scent that can attract a male cecropia from a mile away. The male can sense the pheromone with it's antennae. A female cecropia moth can lay around 100 eggs on the undersides of leaves. It takes 1-2 weeks for the eggs to hatch. During the larval stage the caterpillars eat and molt many times till they reach the size of the one in the picture above. In late summer, the caterpillar will spin a cocoon and wait for the next spring to emerge. Cecropias are not pest in the garden and are more often the meal to other animals or insects. They can have a large appetite as they develop and grow in size during the larval stage. Their favorite food are the leaves of alder, beech, plum, maple, white oak, popular, willow, lilac, gooseberry, ash, birch, cherry, box elder, dogwood and elm trees.

Happy Gardening!

The Creative Gardener


Carol said…
That's enormous. I've never seen one in my garden, moth or caterpillar!
Jesikarena said…
thats the cutest caterpillar i have ever seen!
Janet said…
My goodness Debbie, that is some kind of big caterpillar!
That is huge, I'm not sure I could pick it up though :)
GardenJoy4Me said…
I hope never to "bump" into this character !! That is HUGE !! EEuuuuwwwwww !! LOL
It would take a large bird to devour him. He's a mouthful.
Autumn Belle said…
This is the most beautiful caterpillar I have ever seen. Very colourful too.
Aerie-el said…
Wow, that caterpillar doesn't even look real. It's so big and has such wildly psychedelic, sci-fi characteristics. Amazing.
Life IS stranger than fiction.
Gosh--just about big enough to need a name and his own bedroom!
WiseAcre said…
I think I know now why my wife's pickles taste funny.
What a great picture I have seen the moths in my garden but never the caterpillars!
Very brave of you to hold the little guy. Very interesting post. I have never ever seen a caterpillar that big. I bet the moth is just magnificent during it's short life.
He's huge, but quite interesting (at least I think so, anyway!). I don't think I'd want to hold him, like you did, though! You're brave!!
lynn'sgarden said…
Ewww, he gives me the creepy BUT in bug world, he's quite beautiful! A new species butterfly???
Miss Daisy said…
Holy moly, that is one HUGE caterpillar! WOW!

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