Iowa does not have many large insects, but a certain silkworm moth is the largest you’ll find in the state and in the entire continent, the cecropia moth. Since they aren’t seen very often, they are quite the sight to behold with their vibrant colors and enormous wingspan.

They fly at night so you may see them fluttering near a street light, or you may find it perfectly still in the daytime hours where they stopped in the morning and remain there until night.

They have a wingspan up to seven inches and feature reddish-brown colors and a white “eye” near the center.

The cecropia caterpillar will eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including ash, birch, box elder, elm, maple, poplar, cherry, plum, willow, apple, and lilac. Once it emerges from its cocoon as a moth – it will not eat. Its only purpose is to mate. It only lives for a few weeks once it becomes a moth, mates, and then dies.

You can purchase cecropia caterpillars and have them shipped to Iowa. A set of 10 caterpillars costs $70 from Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Florida.

The cecropia moth is found east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. They will emerge from their cocoons in late May or June.

The moth is named after King Cecrops of Athens in Greek mythology. It was believed that he was the one who taught the citizens of Athens the secrets of marriage, reading, writing, and ceremonial burial.

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