Last evening there was a call from a young engineer we know who raises moths, especially the giant silkmoths when he finds eggs, larva, or cocoons. Two of his Cecropia Moth (Hyalophoro cecropia) cocoons hatched in the afternoon and he invited us to come make some images before he turned them loose.
The Cecropia is an insect that is hard to fit in the frame when working in a small space with a 180mm and even a 100mm lens as we were. They are huge. The low light and subject nearness meant using manual exposure and flash set at a minus 1 flash exposure to remove the background and not over flash the moth. The background was the building wall seen through the screened porch so we preferred a dramatic black – something we seldom choose to do. However this worked well for this portrait.
We really wanted to stop and pet the two gorgeous males. Cecropia are sometimes called Robin Moths. Their wingspans can reach 150 mm or abut 6 inches. This one was the larger of the two and seemed even bigger. We made some images with and without flash. Flash accentuated their amazing color patterns and made individual scales visible even in this image which was converted to a low resolution jpg for the web.
Then we watched as they quivered their wings to warm their flight muscles before flying around the small porch where they had been reared. We have some flash images that show the slight blur of the wing quiver. Fortunately they sometimes sat very still so some images were as sharp as the one above. The top sides of the wings look similar to the bottom seen here. One difference is from the top, the moth’s russet furry capelet is visible where the forewings attach.
May, June and July are the best times to find Cecropia Moths. So head out to look where bushes and trees are small. You may get lucky. Or find a friend or nature center that may be raising some large moths. Their colors and patterns will take your breath away.