Cecropia Moths mating in Rouge National Urban Park
With the covid-19 virus still spreading and pandemic restrictions curtailing our activities, Bob and I found ourselves taking frequent walks in nature but staying close to home. On one such outing, we came upon a pair of Cecropia Moths mating in Rouge National Urban Park.
It was an early June day when we took it in our minds to visit North Reesor Pond in Markham to look for shorebirds. This was after a morning of grocery shopping and taking the necessary precautions to wash everything before storing it in the house.
The usual Great Blue Heron was hunting along the shore as well as some Dunlins and Spotted Sandpipers.
The Great Blue Heron afforded some nice views.
It was a beautiful afternoon, so to extend our outing, we walked around the perimeter of the pond. As we strode along, butterflies drew our attention in addition to the birds. Bob and I scanned the sky, the bushes and the water. When I noticed a pair of huge moths beside the trail, I was utterly shocked.
Neither Bob nor I had ever seen Cecropia Moths before, so at first, we didn’t know what we had found. A quick search using the SEEK App revealed the truth, and we were ecstatic.
Cecropia Moths are North America’s largest native moth species. They are members of the giant silk moth family. Cecropia Moths are among the most spectacular of North American Lepidoptera with a most showy appearance.
A female Cecropia Moth can have a wingspan between 5-7 inches and sometimes even wider.
We were very lucky to come across this mating pair. They obviously had recently emerged as adults from their respective cocoons, each having spent the winter as a pupa within a silk cocoon.
As luck would have it, Bob and I actually found a Cecropia Moth Cocoon in April on a different trail in Rouge National Urban Park. Cecropia Moth Larvae or caterpillars, once hatched, go through 5 instars as they grow from a tiny black larva into a large bluish caterpillar ready to pupate.
The caterpillar at that 5th larval stage spins a silk cocoon that is attached lengthwise on a stem or branch. Sealing itself inside, the caterpillar pupates and spends its winter within as it develops into a mature Cecropia Moth.
Cecropia Moths lack both functional mouth parts and a digestive system, so they live only a short 14 days. Their sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs.
Cecropia Moths are inspired to emerge from their cocoons during the first seasonally warm days of summer.
It is no easy task for a male Cecropia Moth to locate a female for the purposes of mating. Pheromones emitted late at night by a female can be detected up to a mile away by the delicate antennae of a male.
In this photo, the female is on the right, identifiable by the slender antennae and the rotund abdomen that is full of eggs being fertilized by the male.
A male Cecropia Moth is generally smaller than a female though his antennae are significantly broader and fuller.
Once a male Cecropia Moth has located a female, the pair will begin mating in the morning and engage in the activity until the evening. We spent a half hour marveling at the wonder of what we witnessed. As a first sighting for us of these magnificent Moths, it was very special.
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